"You Must Join This Movement"
Thousands Walk Out of L.A. High Schools
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
On November 2 high school students from over 30 schools in Los Angeles walked out of school and hit the streets, joining with others in L.A. and around the country to take the first important step in the movement to drive out the Bush regime.
High school students in L.A. were part of the marches in the 1990s against the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 and the East L.A. protests against the Vietnam War in the '60s. But Nov. 2 was on a whole different level. In response to the call from The World Can't Wait, thousands of youth--many from proletarian neighborhoods--left school to take political action and make their voices heard. At Los Angeles High School alone, more than 1,000 students--the majority of the school -- walked out, and more than 500 marched to Wilshire Blvd.
A student organizer for The World Can't Wait reported that relatives in Mexico had called her after seeing headline news about the November 2 protests on Mexican television.
The students often acted in direct defiance of serious repression and threats of punishment--including one student organizer who was put under house arrest and hit with criminal charges. Many jumped over fences and ran past police cars to get to the convergences. Hundreds more--no one knows the exact number--attempted to walk out but were locked inside the schools. Throughout the L.A. school district, numerous principals ordered schools to be locked down. Gates were chained and padlocked, police were stationed at exits, and teachers were ordered to close their doors and keep students in their classrooms.
All this was in direct violation of official L.A. Unified School District policy. An Oct. 26 memo from the school district notified all principals of The World Cant Waits call for school walkouts. The memo clearly stated, "Do not attempt to prevent students from leaving the campus."
Not only did many schools prevent students from leaving--but since Nov. 2, administrators have gone after and persecuted students who took part in the walkouts, especially student leaders. There is now an important struggle to defend the students against this punitive retaliation.
Resistance and Repression
Young women at Locke H.S. in South Central were sent to the principal's office for having posters from Revolution that called out William Bennett as a Nazi for his remark that aborting all Black babies would be a good way to reduce crime. The principal confiscated all their posters and threatened them with being kicked out of school.
At Lynwood H.S. on Nov. 2, 40-50 students gathered to walk out. Police were blocking some gates, and other gates were chained and locked. Four students staged a sit-in by the administration office. They were all taken into the office and accused of truancy for trying to walk out. One of the staff in the office commented to the Chicano students, after hearing that some other students had jumped over the fence, "You Mexicans have to stop jumping over the borders." Since that day students have been harassed by school security, and the administration is threatening to suspend those who organized the walkout.
The principal at Van Nuys H.S. issued a memo before November 2, saying that the school would be locked down. When students tried to walk out, some were physically assaulted, including one young woman who was pulled by the hair by one dean. Still two women climbed over the fence and spoke at the rally in Westwood. Twenty students were reportedly given one-day suspensions, and at least two face punitive transfer. Others were ticketed by police with fines that range upward of $250. On some tickets the cops wrote that they were for "truancy and protesting against Bush" and for "distributing leaflets that some people find objectionable."
A student at Granada Hills H.S. was called into the Deans office because he was wearing a World Cant Wait sticker on his t-shirt. The dean told him to remove the sticker because school is not the place for voicing political beliefs (only days before a student Christian group assembled in the quad at lunchtime with an eight-foot cross to conduct a group prayer). A school police officer grabbed his arm and ordered him to take off the sticker. The youth told them, "If you want me to take off the sticker, then I have to take everything off as well," and he took off all his clothes (except his underwear). He told them, "You can take my clothes and my sticker, but you cant take what I believe in my heart." The Dean called him "off balance" and sent him to the nurses office. The nurse told the student that she agrees with what the student is doing.
At Jefferson H.S. students assembled to walk out--and were met with a wall of military recruiters standing at the front of the school.
In a completely outrageous case, Geovany Serrano, a 10th grader at Belmont H.S., is under house arrest for passing out flyers and organizing his school to walk out. He was grabbed by school police, pepper-sprayed, and arrested. After first being taken to the Rampart Division police station (infamous for police corruption and brutality), he was taken to juvenile hall and finger printed. Geovany is now facing heavy criminal charges and is under house arrest. He must wear an ankle bracelet that monitors his movement and his phone is bugged. He was also transferred out of Belmont and into a new school where the principal warned him against passing out flyers there.
The National Steering Committee of World Can't Wait issued a letter in support of the L.A. students, saying in part:
"These students are taking a position now that will be honored in the future. We in our millions that hate the Bush Regime must honor these students NOW. Any administrator that allows or enforces punishment on these young people must be repudiated. As we say in our call, ' If we speak the truth, they will try to silence us. If we act, they will try to stop us. But we speak for the majority, here and around the world, and as we get this going we are going to reach out to the people who have been so badly fooled by Bush and we are not going to stop.'"
While school officials have acted like wardens trying to crush a prison rebellion, the high school students have refused to back down and are resisting the repression, as part of going forward with the movement to drive out Bush.
At Belmont H.S., several dozen students walked out of class demanding "Bush must go! Geovany must stay!" They held a rally and marched to a nearby school that also walked out on the 2nd. After the march, a group of students went to a local restaurant and were swarmed by police cars, given truancy tickets, and taken back to school in the police cars.
At Reseda H.S., hundreds of outraged calls from students, parents, teachers, and others forced the school authorities to back down from transferring Sara Escuerdo, a student leader, to another school. Sara had already been suspended for two days for organizing a walkout and threatened with arrest for having stickers.
The retaliation against the students has been heavy--but the students are driven by an understanding that the future of the planet is at stake and that what they do or dont do matters.
In a letter on worldcantwait.org, Sara Escuerdo from Reseda H.S. and L.J. from Los Angeles H.S. wrote:
"We owe it to the millions of people that are getting tortured, getting murdered, and suffering around the world to do this. Resist or Die--it has come down to that slogan... Right now the future is in everybodys hands. It is up to us. The question is what kind of world do you want to live in? Will you accept everything this regime stands for? If you dont, then you must join this movement..."
"Look at the war in Iraq. There are jails where there are people that the government just wants to disappear. They have them there and are torturing them or putting them on leashes. Theyre bombing the shit out of peoples houses. Theyre trying to have this Christian fascism and make the Bible the law and not letting women do what they want with their bodies. They dont want to allow homosexuals and lesbians to just be. Were headed into a society where if you dont follow a certain way, youre going to be eliminated.
"When I first got into this it hit me so hard. Its hard to go back to living a regular day. Even going to sleep, knowing that there are people that are being killed and victimized by this system is difficult. Is that the world that I want?
"No. I dont want none of that."