Even though many of them weren’t of age to vote in this past Tuesday’s election, it seems Portland’s students are getting involved in the wave of post-election protests. As many as 500 students from at least ten schools in Oregon’s largest school district walked out Monday morning in protest of the election of Donald Trump.
Similar to the adult protests, students chanted “Not My President,” as well as “No Trump, No K-K-K, No Fascist USA,” as they held signs and marched throughout the liberal-leaning city.
Portland school district officials acknowledged several schools across the district that had student walkouts Monday, including Cleveland High School, Mount Tabor Middle School, Hosford Middle School and the Metropolitan Learning Center, which is a K-12 school. OPB can also confirm that students marched from Sunnyside Environmental School and Wilson High School. Portland Public Schools officials said students from Irvington School (a K-8 school), Beaumont Middle School and Franklin High School also took part. When the protest arrived Benson High School, the total number of participating schools reached 10.
Abby, a Cleveland High School junior, said students wanted to counteract some of the divisive rhetoric and policy proposals they’ve heard throughout the presidential campaign.
“We’re not, you know, thrilled that he is our president,” Abby said. “We can’t change that. But we will not stand for the racism and the hate that half of our country elected. That’s just not OK.”
Two seventh-graders from Metropolitan Learning Center carried a sign that read “Revolution.” They said their parents knew they were taking part in the walkout, but the children said participating was their decision, not their parents’.
Some students had very personal reasons for marching, like eighth-grader Ethan, from Hosford Middle School.
“I’m really worried about my family being deported,” Ethan said. “Like, my grandma — she’s been here for fifty years, but she still isn’t legal. I’m pretty worried about that.”
Ethan said students at Hosford were discouraged from marching, with the school going into a lockdown.
The students marched across the Hawthorne Bridge, then traveled to Holladay Park in the Lloyd District. Police cars rode in front of and behind the student protesters, keeping traffic away but also keeping students from walking onto highways. At times, students occupied major thoroughfares — like the Hawthorne Bridge and East Burnside St.
Student protest march in area of Holladay Park near Lloyd Center. Parents encouraged to tell their kids to go back to school. #pdxtraffic— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) November 14, 2016
After making their way through Holladay Park, a large contingent of students made their way to the Lloyd Center Mall, then to the Moda Center.
School administrators like Cleveland High School principal Tammy O’Neill said students would receive an unexcused absence for their participation in the protest but no further discipline. She said her main concern was for the safety of the students. No teachers or school staff accompanied the students, but a number of parents were along, in large part to ensure safety.
At one point, as students approached Benson High School, a counterprotester confronted students to ask them what their problems were with Donald Trump. He was shouted down by students and supportive adults.
When students arrived at Benson, they chanted “Walk Out,” as police camped out on the high school’s front lawn. The scene was reminiscent of attempts by Lincoln High School students to get Benson students to march with them over a proposed school bond at the beginning of the school year. A number of Benson students joined the march, as it continued north to Holladay Park.
The student protest was not supported by one of the school district’s top student leadership groups, the Portland Metro High School Youth Alliance.
“For us, as Portland Public Schools students, we thought the best message is for unity, and protecting each other and holding each other accountable for our actions, and a walkout was not the way to do that,” said Aliemah Bradley, the Portland Public Schools student representative on the school board.
Bradley pointed out that PPS is planning a district-wide “Day of Unity,” on Thursday, Nov. 17.
The student walkout comes after six nights of protests in downtown Portland by local activists.