• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Week of the Walkouts

Student walkouts against anti-immigrant legislation spread across the country last week, setting a new fighting example in the fast-growing movement for immigrant rights.

The walkouts caught on quickly from city to city, with little or no central coordination. Everywhere, students themselves took the lead–a further sign of the deep-seated anger that has erupted against proposals by anti-immigrant politicians to brand undocumented workers as felons and criminalize anyone who assists them.

The desire to take a stand against this racist scapegoating was evident in mass marches that brought at least 1.5 million people into the streets across the U.S. last month. Now the school walkouts have opened a new front in the struggle.

The walkouts began on the Monday after the 1 million-strong march through Los Angeles. Southern California was the initial center of the demonstrations.

In LA itself, an estimated 40,000 students left school, marching through the streets and blocking freeways around the area. Some schools tried to impose a lockdown to avoid mass walkouts, but students defied threats of disciplinary action throughout the week. “[F]or the small group of students who instigated the walkouts, most of whom hadn’t been politically active, but were well-connected on campus and online, it was a transformative week,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in an analysis.

In San Diego, schools across the city were hit by the walkouts, with demonstrating students gathering downtown for a rally outside San Diego Community College. The walkouts were organized as students arrived for class. Demonstrators marched, chanting, through their schools, and then through the city to arrive downtown–some taking miles-long routes though their communities and even alongside freeways.

After speeches outside the college, plainclothes school district security guards tried to convince students to board busses and return to school. Some did, but most sat down on the lawn, chanting “Don’t get on!”

In Escondido, just north of San Diego, high schoolers walked out of class and rallied in the streets. But this expression of free speech was met by lines of police who used pepper spray on protesters. At least 24 students were arrested, and a few suffered abuse at the hands of the cops.

The walkouts continued through the week across the Southwest. In Las Vegas, hundreds of students walked out of classes, according to activists’ reports.

By midweek, media attention focused on Texas–the home not only of George Bush but other right-wing Republicans who are pushing the vicious Sensenbrenner bill.

In Dallas, students who left schools across the city came together–traveling by car, truck, bus and train–for a protest at City Hall. After rallying outside, the students flooded into the building to disrupt a city council meeting. Spontaneous protests took place in Fort Worth and other cities across the state.

In the state capital of Austin, students walked out at Del Torre High School–and then marched 15 miles, down a county highway and into the city, to rally with other students from a dozen other schools outside the capitol building.

The wave of walkouts reached beyond the Southwest.

For example, on the other side of the country, in the northern Virginia suburbs outside Washington, D.C., walkouts snowballed through the week, culminating March 30 in a march through Arlington, Va., for a 1,500-strong rally at the county courthouse. Students waved flags from their countries of origin. Those without flags used markers to spell the names of countries on their bodies.

Reports from activists said the protests were organized mostly through word of mouth. In many places, students relied on e-mails, text messaging and the myspace.com community Web site to spread the word.

“All these politic officials are trying to make their dreams come true by destroying ours, AND THEY WILL, unless we do something about it!!” read a call for a walkout in Orange County, Calif., posted on MySpace. The appeal convinced more than 1,500 students to leave classes at Garden Grove High School, according to the LA Times.

Another influence pointed out by New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzales was an HBO movie called Walkout that premiered last month. The film depicts the 1968 school walkout by some 20,000 Chicano students in Los Angeles against discrimination and racism.

The walkouts had an electrifying effect on those who participated. “It was great to have all of us unified, and fighting for something we believe in,” said Stephanie, a lead organizer of the protests at Wakefield High School in northern Virginia.

The students drew on their knowledge of past struggles, but also developed tactics on the spot. In LA, for example, the students who descended on City Hall March 27 sat in on the front steps of the building.

They also had to contend with the threatening presence of police. “Living in a low-income neighborhood, you just don’t have a really good image of the police,” one student told the Times. “People thought we were going to get arrested. But I told them: ‘No. We are exercising our right to free speech.'”

In the aftermath of the walkouts, many schools are threatening students with discipline. In the north Texas town of Ennis, for example, as many as 130 high school and junior high students were suspended, which bars them from attending the prom. In Houston, a principal at a school where 88 percent of students are Latino was disciplined for flying the Mexican flag below the U.S. and Texas flags.

And Steven Graham, one of the leaders of the walkout at Stoney Point High School near Austin, says that police who had escorted them to the Thursday demonstration outside the capitol building the next day tackled them, forced them on a bus and returned them to school. Some students were given $250 citations for truancy.

Nevertheless, the protests have had a huge impact. Everywhere, the protesters were predominantly Latino, but Ben Miner, a high school junior in Austin, said he wanted to demonstrate to show solidarity with his Mexican and Mexican American friends. “It’s racism all over again,” he told a reporter.

Like in other cities, several teachers were at the protest in Austin outside the capitol to support their students. “It’s pretty ironic–we were learning about Gandhi all this week,” Lacey Glover, a geography teacher, told the Austin-American Statesman. “Most of my students either are from a Latin American country or their parents are, and one of the things we talk about is the need to support our kids. So that’s why I’m here.”

Cindy Beringer, Eugene Chigna, Mike Corwin, Jon Van Camp and Laura Woodward contributed to this report

ALAN MAASS is the editor of the Socialist Worker and the author of The Case for Socialism. He can be reached at: alanmaass@sbcglobal.net

 

 

 

More articles by:

ALAN MAASS is the editor of the Socialist Worker and author of The Case for Socialism. He can be reached at: alanmaass@sbcglobal.net

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
May 24, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire
Melvin Goodman
The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament
Jeffrey St. Clair
“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged
Richard Moser
War is War on Mother Earth
Andrew Levine
The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Way: Blaming Dead Pilots
Rev. William Alberts
Gaslighters of God
Phyllis Bennis
The Amputation Crisis in Gaza: a US-Funded Atrocity
David Rosen
21st Century Conglomerate Trusts 
Jonathan Latham
As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students
Binoy Kampmark
The Espionage Act and Julian Assange
Kathy Deacon
Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon
Jill Richardson
The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like
Zhivko Illeieff
Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism
Norman Solomon
Will Biden’s Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
Yanis Varoufakis
The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism
Lawrence Davidson
Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission
Thomas Knapp
War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea
Renee Parsons
Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War
Yves Engler
Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela
Katie Singer
Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Beauty of Trees
Jesse Jackson
Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest
Andrew Bacevich
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Ron Jacobs
Another One Moves On: Roz Payne, Presente!
Christopher Brauchli
The Offal Office
Daniel Falcone
Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries   
Julia Paley
Life After Deportation
Sarah Anderson
America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors
Seiji Yamada – John Witeck
Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Shane Doyle, A.J. Not Afraid and Adrian Bird, Jr.
The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation
Charlie Nash
Will Generation Z Introduce a Wizard Renaissance?
Ron Ridenour
Denmark Peace-Justice Conference Based on Activism in Many Countries
Douglas Bevington
Why California’s Costly (and Destructive) Logging Plan for Wildfires Will Fail
Gary Leupp
“Escalating Tensions” with Iran
Jonathan Power
Making the World More Equal
Cesar Chelala
The Social Burden of Depression in Japan
Stephen Cooper
Imbibe Culture and Consciousness with Cocoa Tea (The Interview)
Stacy Bannerman
End This Hidden Threat to Military Families
Kevin Basl
Time to Rethink That POW/MIA Flag
Nicky Reid
Pledging Allegiance to the Divided States of America
Louis Proyect
A Second Look at Neflix
Martin Billheimer
Closed Shave: T. O. Bobe, the Girl and Curl
David Yearsley
Hard Bop and Bezos’ Balls
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail