On Wednesday night, Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando addressed the Pittsburg Unified School District (PUSD) Board of Trustees highlighting how the District was downplaying what happened during an anti-Donald Trump protest.
He would now like the District to further investigate the incident and review their policies after Cantando provided additional information from both Antioch and Pittsburg Police.
Chief Cantando explained how both Antioch and Pittsburg police officers observed Principal Todd Whitmire participating and encouraging students during the rally–which last week PUSD Superintendent Janet Schulze and Principal Whitmire deny saying he was there for safety.
Schulze claims the rally was peaceful in nature which Cantando disputes.
Chief Cantando made the following statement at the board meeting:
I come here as the chief of police for the city of Antioch to speak of the anti-Trump rally last Thursday involving students of your district. This incident was anything but peaceful and involved more students than the small number of students the district claims.
In reality, students from your district engaged in criminal activity including vandalism, knocking over garbage cans, trespassing and attempting to incite students at Antioch High School and assaulting a police officer. All of this occurred in the presence of Pittsburg High School Principal Whitmire.
According to the article in the EastBayTimes dated November 11, Mr. Whitmire expressed that he continually–Quote—exonerated them to return to class—unquote—but when they didn’t he joined their march.
Mr. Whitmire expressed in such situations, school administrators go on to offer such protection as possible, however, under his protection and supervision three Pittsburg High School students engaged in criminal activity that resulted in their arrest.
I can’t help wonder how Mr. Whitmire defines protection or how he feels he provided it. In reality, Mr. Whitmire was an active participate in this event, witnessed by two separate law enforcement agencies.
Initial information provided by Pittsburg Police Lieutenant, a school resource officer, described Mr. Whitmire as encouraging and actively involved. The Lieutenant advised the Pittsburg Police Chief, who advised me, that Mr. Whitmire was giving thumbs up to students.
Once in Antioch, one of our officers observed him chanting, pumping his fist up in the air, and clapping along with the students during the march. Additionally, on two separate occasions, two more of my officers spoke directly to Principal Whitmire asking for his assistance in controlling the crowd and getting students onto the waiting bus at Antioch High School. Both times Mr. Whitmire refused to speak to my officers, but instead gave them a blank stare, shrugged his shoulders, and walked away.
Mr. Whitmire efforts to help this endeavor consists of the following statements to the students, and I quote, if you want to get on the bus, it will take you to Pittsburg, unquote.
In closing, Mr. Whitmires actions endangered his students as well as well as members of both the Pittsburg and Antioch community. He produced unnecessary and dangerous liability for the school district based on the special relationship created by his presence and involvement in this unauthorized and in times unlawful off-campus event. But instead of taking responsibility for his role of these events, he and the school Superintendent have chosen to make excuses in a blatant attempt to minimize and justify his misconduct.
But the truth is, the actions that led up and continue throughout this event, were negligent and irresponsible. The lack of integrity and accountability following the event are just as reprehensible.
I sincerely hope at some point you critically and objectively evaluate what happened that day in an effort to prevent a similar occurrence and response in the future. Our children and our community deserve better.
During the protest, Antioch Police Lieutenant Morefield explained that students made their way to the Antioch High School campus in an apparent effort to involve students there. Antioch High was placed on lockdown, but this did not stop the protestors from damaging school property (knocking down fences and kicking over trash cans) before leaving that campus and heading toward Antioch Middle School. The incident tied up 15-officers for two-hours.
In total, three juveniles were arrested during the protest:
- 1 for throwing a dangerous object at a police car, trespassing on school grounds and being a disruptive presence at school
- 1 for inciting a fight with an area resident, trespassing on school grounds and resisting a police officer
- 1 for assaulting a police officer.
Neither Superintendent Janet Schulze nor Principal Whitmire responded to multiple direct questions from this publication on what transpired.
They also did not deny our report regarding Mr. Whitmire’s role in the protest but instead offered three press releases.
On November 10, Schulze issued the following release at 6:54pm:
The Pittsburg Unified School District absolutely did not sanction today’s student demonstration in reaction to the Presidential election. The school administration acted in the best interest for the safety of the students as the events were occurring. After being alerted this morning about social media activity regarding a walk-out, the Pittsburg High School principal immediately notified teachers, staff and the District. He instructed all students to remain in class.
Approximately 250 of the 3300 students walked out of their classrooms and gathered in the quad. He let the students know the importance of respecting the democratic process and peaceful protests. When the principal and staff were directing students back to class, some students walked off campus. He, additional staff and the Pittsburg Police Department followed them to insure their safety. When it was evident the students were heading to Antioch High School, he alerted the school.
The entire time of the protest was a balance of insuring students’ safety while attempting to get them back to school. Students were being identified and parents were called throughout this process.
The District does not condone any acts of vandalism or violence and is working with the police and students’ families to follow up on any incidents. Student safety was a priority throughout the entire demonstration.
Once again, we would like to express our gratitude to the Pittsburg Police Department and to the Antioch School District and Antioch Police Department.
On Sunday, a third statement was issued by Schulze:
Following last week’s election, news reports from across the nation shared images of demonstrations, marches and rallies. These may continue, and if they do, I thank you all in advance for reminding our students that they are respected, welcome, and safe in our schools, and that they need to be in class learning. Pittsburg is known for its strong sense of community and I appreciate the role everyone has in supporting our students and educating them to be their very best, including how to process complex information, be critical thinkers and use peaceful and respectful means to voice their opinions.
Cantando disputed Schulze statement saying it downplayed what actually happened and says it was anything but peaceful while it was more than 250-students.
Cantando further highlighted that during a conversation with Pittsburg Police, he learned they were aware students were going to leave campus and hold a march to Civic Center in Pittsburg and back to campus all within 1-period time frame. He also was unsure how the District addressed this with parents or why they ended up in Antioch.
Pittsburg Police Captain Ron Raman confirmed via email last week of the planned march to Civic Center prior to heading to Antioch.
“The initial information was that the students were going to plan a march from the school to City Hall. Some of the students did just that, others continued on and ultimately ended up in the city of Antioch, “ said Raman via email. “Additional information relative to the school being aware of this would have to be obtained by PUSD. Again we have no information at this point to corroborate that.”
According to multiple parents, Whitmire told students they could cut first period and could hold a rally away from the campus.
According to one parent who posted on our social media page how the principal encouraged the rally.
“My child has just confirmed Whitmire told them all to cut 1st period and he started the rally. He pumped these impressionable children up before starting to march away from the school. I can’t believe this. I’m appalled,” said the parent.
“He (Whitmire) did not lead it. He followed the delinquents who refused to go back to class to Antioch to make sure they stayed safe,” said Tammy Tounng Paiva. “He did, however, tell them they could have an anti-Trump rally at lunch today, so I pulled my kids out. Not acceptable. A rally needs to be held after school, and kids can choose whether they want to be there. I’m waiting to find out if it actually took place. If so, I will speak to an attorney.”
Although Schulze has not responded to our questions on the role of Principal Whitmire, she did tell ABC 7 the they supported Whitmire’s actions prior to hearing details from law enforcement:
“From everything I’ve looked at, I really support the principal and all the staff’s actions that they did to really step in and mitigate that situation,” said Janet Schulze of Pittsburg.
Three students were arrested by Antioch police and dozens more are being disciplined by the school district, including suspensions.
Cantando says that he hopes that by speaking to the Pittsburg Unified School District Board, they take a closer look at what happened so it doesn’t put students or the community in danger.
It’s unclear if Schulze will investigate this incident further or considers it closed.
This past Monday, rally’s were planned at both Deer Valley High School in Antioch and Heritage High School in Brentwood, however, both Antioch Unified and Liberty Union School Districts took proactive measures to limit participation to less than 20-students.