PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — More than 400 students from a number of middle schools, high schools and colleges marched through Portland Monday afternoon in a continuation of the anti-Donald Trump protests spawned after the election last Tuesday.
Officials with Portland Public Schools said roughly 440 students from Beaumont, Irvington, MLC, Tabor, Sunnyside, Hosford, Cleveland, Wilson, Benson and Franklin were involved.
Students either skipped school or walked out of class to participate.
“[My parents] said I could come here or stay at school and I chose to come here,” high school freshman Josie Alcman said.
Students gathered at Pioneer Courthouse Square at 10:30 a.m. then took off walking across the city. They first marched to City Hall, where a separate protest was focusing on racist graffiti found at Reed College over the weekend.
After City Hall, students left and crossed the Hawthorne Bridge, blocking traffic.They weaved their way through the city and around 12:15 p.m. arrived en masse in front of Benson High School, changed slogans and urged other students to walk out of class.
The march then continued into Northeast Portland near Holladay Park, the Lloyd Center and Moda Center. N Interstate Avenue was shut down as students marched.
Leaders made calls to remain peaceful and students chanted and held signs. Students who organized the protest said they didn’t intend to cause so much chaos.
“We’re not a big group of crazy kids, that’s not necessarily what we’re here for,” student protester Abbey Wilusz said. “I think a portion of the kids here are just kids that had an opportunity not to go to school [but] most of the kids, that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to show our message.”
Peaceful protests in Portland on Thursday, Friday and Saturday became destructive when people began setting fires, breaking windows and confronting police.
Police arrested a total of 113 people throughout those events.
Other rallies were planned for later Monday.
Wilson HS principal sent out a note to parents ahead of the protest:
Dear Wilson families,
First let me thank you for your participation and engagement in our fall conferences. At Wilson we do conferences a little differently than other high schools. Perhaps it seems a bit complicated, but given the investment in time and human resources, we feel that it’s essential to make the biggest impact possible for student success with these two days. If nothing else, I hope you recognized during those short meetings the level of commitment and professionalism from our staff and saw evidence that we truly put the needs of students first.
With that said, I now must address the elephant in the living room, which due to the timing of the election with our 5 day weekend has left us in a strange waiting game thinking about how the new national political landscape will impact our young people and their school. I am aware of plans that students across the city of Portland are planning to walk out of school tomorrow. If this action does take place, and students decide to leave the school, I need you to know that neither I, nor any of my staff will be able to participate or monitor the situation to ensure their safety. Given the last few nights of protests and the raw emotions that the political campaign and election surfaced, I think the risks far outweigh the benefits for students. Please have a conversation with your son or daughter tonight and carefully consider together what’s at stake.
Despite the divisiveness and unmasked bigotry that has been publicly attributed to our president elect and his vision for our future, I want to reassure everyone that nothing will change in either policy or practice at Wilson High School. Our commitment to student safety, both physical and mental, to teach and model empathy and respect for all, will only get more attention and intention in the coming months. I hope that the deep and old wounds that have been torn open in our society once again will help our children now see, and do more, than perhaps my generation has done to deal with the systems of oppression, the marginalization of the LGBTQ community, women and minorities, that exists in America, in Portland, Oregon and within our school community.
We have experienced and responded to anti-muslim harassment at Wilson prior to November 8, 2016. We have also dealt with homophobia, sexism, racism and every other kind of bigotry and harassment that exists elsewhere in America. We will continue to work through and disrupt the ignorance, fear and selfishness that plagues our society and our school community that has been normalized recently. As an alternative to walking out of school and thinking of these problems as happening somewhere else, by someone else, I will ask our student leaders and their various clubs and organizations to come together, inside our building this week, to create a pledge against bigotry and hate – to fix ourselves first. The recent election and the struggle to determine our country’s values is an opportunity to turn into the mirror and ask ourselves tough questions about the society we want for our children, the school we want for ourselves and what we are willing to do to make things better. I have enormous faith in our young people, as should you, to move forward in positive, inclusive and productive ways.
Lastly, I realize that in this message I may have revealed my personal beliefs and political dispositions, which under ordinary circumstances would be considered inappropriate for a principal. But these circumstances are far from ordinary. I don’t want any student, including those students whose parents and/or family may have voted for and support the new president and his vision for America, to feel marginalized or unwelcome at Wilson. I realize that there are many factors that American voters had to consider in choosing the next president beyond the social agenda that I focus on here. However, my first obligation as a school principal is to defend everyone’s right, regardless their views on tax policy, trade agreements or environmental regulations to be treated with dignity and respect in my school. So while we may debate and respectfully disagree on many elements of our nation’s policies, when it come to hate speech, discrimination and a stated agenda that is harmful to youth, there can be no debate, as these are issues that as a principal I can not and will not accept or ignore.
Wilson High School