Inside the November 9th Walkout
December 5, 2016
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At twelve o’clock sharp Dos Pueblos students rose from their desks and walked out their classroom doors. Small bands of friends merged into groups of dozens in the hallways, and groups soon blurred together to form a steady stream of protesters flowing into the buzzing crowd of hundreds on the DP meadow.
The sun that day was blinding. DP News cameramen rushed to-and-fro to capture the action and administrators made a ring around the crowd, passively reporting into their walkie-talkies as they tried to keep an eye on the students. An audience formed along the railing above the meadow as the crowd chanted, swore, cheered and debated.
“This is f****** ridiculous, that’s all I gotta say bro,” said senior Jayson Harris, with a smile.
For many people like Harris, myself included, this kind of turnout far surpassed expectations. A few dozen students from social or political clubs, another dozen particularly concerned students, and maybe a handful of slackers seemed like the most to expect out of a political protest on what seemed to be a politically inactive campus. But as protesters kept on pouring in it increasingly appeared that Donald Trump’s election had really hit a nerve.
The students who showed up that day came for a broad variety of reasons. For those like senior Shaoni White, who said she didn’t respect Trump as a president because he didn’t respect her dignity as a person, the issue was deeply personal. Many students expressed concern over Trump’s attitude towards women, immigrants, minorities, and the LGBTQ community.
“He’s awful to women, he’s awful to immigrants and to anyone that’s not a white male and rich,” said junior Amber Belletti.
Echoing Belletti’s comments, junior Daniel Warren voiced particular concern over the predatory past of the president-elect. “He bragged about sexually assaulting women and then called the women he sexually assaulted too ugly for him to assault” Warren said, referring to a video in which Trump boasts of kissing and groping women without consent, saying that “When you’re a star they let you do it”.
Others, like freshman Q Le, showed concern over his temperament and policies.
“He will have access to things he shouldn’t have access to and he’s going to use them in bad ways because he just loses his cool when someone says any little thing about him.” said Le, who referred to Trump as a child and the most immature person he had ever seen. “I can’t deal with it anymore.”
For some, like juniors Tommy Cassan and Bryce Ambrose, the walkout was a good opportunity to get some fresh air. Though they liked the crowd’s energy, they explained to The Charger Account reporter Reuben Satjin that they didn’t really see it doing much good. “Standing around doesn’t really tell them anything,” said Cassan “especially just in California which is already a blue state.”
Ambrose agreed. “I don’t think it’s that productive since we’re still minors, and minors can’t really do that much” Ambrose said.
Anger and frustration were also prominent throughout the protest. As Warren protested the president elect’s sexual assaults, Trans-Cis Alliance co-president and junior Syd Abad tore into Trump, characterizing him as “nasty” and “starting off worse than Hitler” along with a few other choice expletives, which he said I could put in exclamation points.
“I f****** hate Donald Trump, okay?” said sophomore Omar Elizalde after letting fellow sophomore Edwin Gutierrez voice concerns over economic policies and giving a heads up profanity warning. “He’s a racist, sexist, other stuff, and he’s not good. I really hate him so much.”
With such feelings running high, the crowd was drawn to rapt attention when senior Nicholas Baker scaled a pine and gave an impassioned treetop speech. As Baker gestured energetically and called for “Life and love” his listeners clapped and cheered. One even called for Baker to be president. After leading the crowd in a chant of “F*** Trump” Baker jumped back down and melted into the cheering crowd. Seizing on the momentum, student activist and senior Dennilson Alvarez rallied the crowd for a march to University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Here again I found some of the same nervous energy that I heard earlier. As they walked off campus, one girl worried about how disappointed her brother would be, and two friends promised each other that if they went to jail, they’d go together. For all the apprehension though, when the last protestor walked off and the police car that had been standing by slowly coasted after them, the meadow was lighter by about a hundred students.
After that the protest began to wind down a little. Students chatted with each other and the administrators as a few individuals began to head back to class. Among those that remained, one testimony in particular struck me.
“I’m here because it’s my right to be here within this democracy, which is still a democracy regardless of who is in leadership,” said junior Sarah Weitzel, carefully and quietly choosing her words. Weitzel said that this election has created a lot of fear in people, and that she worried that this fear could be translated here.
“I think that it’s our job now to try to restore or continue to propagate the compassion that I know that the majority of the citizens in this country have to try to bring people together” Weitzel said. “I think that this gathering is part of bringing people together.”
Ultimately, I think that this desire for togetherness is really what brought us out that day. That desire is why a whole crowd chanted and cheered when a single amateur musician clambered up a tree to call for love, and why a hundred more followed one voice off campus to walk off their frustration. It’s why hundreds of kids walked out of class to protest an election they couldn’t even have a vote in. Whether we voted or not, all of us are going to have to live through the next four years to come, for better or for worse, and this walkout is a testament that we’re all in for it together.