Stephanie Cierra is an 18-year-old Los Angeles high school senior who walked out of school Monday to protest Donald Trump’s election.
She said it was the least she could do to express solidarity with those targeted by Trump’s campaign rhetoric — including her parents, immigrants from Guatemala and El Salvador. Still, before she headed to the downtown protest, Cierra finished her day’s classwork.
She’s applying to college this year, she explained.
“I would not walk all the way over here if I was trying to ditch school,” said the Wilson High School senior. “I’m scared, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to put my head down. This is empowering.”
The estimated 4,000 L.A. students who walked out Monday — students from Maryland to Ohio to Oregon did the same — enjoyed much nicer weather than the approximately 300 New York City high schoolers who walked out of class on Tuesday morning. They contended with pouring rain as they demonstrated outside Trump Tower.
Police had set up barricades to prevent the protesters from spilling into the street and from getting too close to the president-elect’s Fifth Avenue home, where his transition committee has been holed up for days.
The students had other ideas. They hopped the barricades and ran down Fifth Avenue, chanting “Not my president” and halting traffic for about 30 blocks. Some carried soggy cardboard signs emblazoned with slogans like “Proud to be a nasty woman,” “My body my choice,” and “Keep families together.”
“We don’t want Trump,” said Sam, a 15-year-old student from Harvest Collegiate High School, who had “Fuck Trump” written on his bare stomach. “The future is going to be terrible with Trump.”
Sarah Wagner, 17, also a student at Harvest Collegiate High School, said Trump’s comments about women scare her.
“It’s definitely very frightening, especially what he says about abortion, that he’s going to be grabbing pussy, and things like that,” Wagner said. “As a woman it’s really scary knowing someone with those beliefs can be my president. My president is someone who is supposed to be taking care of me.”
Los Angeles schools especially are known for walkout protests. In 1968, Mexican-American students at Lincoln, Roosevelt, Garfield, and Wilson high schools — all on the city’s east side — led walkouts to protest substandard education and discrimination by L.A. authorities, a major turning point in the Chicano Movement. In 1994, Latino students in L.A. and across California walked out to protest Proposition 187, a state ballot initiative to deny all public services to undocumented immigrants. (It was approved but never enforced.)
And in 2006, students walked out to protest a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would have done the same nationally.
“We are the future, regardless if you’re an immigrant or not,” said 17-year-old Raven Leos, a senior at Garfield High School. “That’s what today is all about, to demonstrate that Trump isn’t going to delegate the future of this country. The youth are, because the youth are the future of this country.”