Hundreds of Los Angeles-area students walked out of their classrooms Monday morning to protest President-elect Donald Trump and urge local officials to protect and support “targeted communities.”
Students from a number of Eastside schools began gathering around 9:30 a.m. at Boyle Heights’ Mariachi Plaza, from which they planned to march to and rally at Los Angeles City Hall between noon and 2 p.m.
A statement from organizers said students were protesting Trump’s call for the mass deportation of immigrants who are in the country illegally; the construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico; the repeal of the Affordable Care Act; and other Trump initiatives.
“Eastside students know that this is the time to show our targeted community members that we stand in unity with them and exercise our right to protest to ensure that Los Angeles County leaders commit to doing everything in their power to protect and support all vulnerable communities,” the statement read.
Students from Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School arrived at the plaza carrying signs that read "United We Stand" and "DNC failed working people." One student held a pink sign with a black swastika, and Trump's face in the center of it.
"Stay together, stay on the sidewalk, no profanity," said a man wearing a Mendez baseball cap and carrying a walkie-talkie. He declined to give his name but said he's with the schools.
Another woman who also declined to give her name shouted: "No talking to the media! They will twist our words!"
The walkout prompted L.A. Unified Supt. Michelle King to issue a statement, urging students to remain on campus.
“These are important conversations that need to take place,” she said. “We want our students to know they are not alone. However, it is critical that students not allow their sentiments to derail their education or for their actions to place them in danger.”
As students walked through East Los Angeles, King reminded students that they could talk about their concerns in school.
“We believe the best place to discuss concerns is in school with caring teachers and staff,” she said. “Our schools are utilizing assemblies, classroom dialogues, speaking activities and our restorative justice programs to provide a secure forum for our students.”
At Roosevelt High School, administrators used the school intercom to urge students to remain in class.
"Students should remain on campus where they're safe,” the announcement blared. “Ignorance ... can often lead to violence. Please understand that the greatest way to overcome ignorance is through education."
Teachers were instructed to remain in their classrooms and continue teaching.
Monday’s walkout protest was announced after students from different Eastside schools contacted activist Nancy Meza.
Meza said students from several Eastside campuses began talking about wanting to protest Trump’s presidency, but didn’t know how to go about organizing a demonstration so their voices could be heard. Through various circles, students reached out to Meza, who helped them organize the protest.
Students, she said, are afraid what a Trump presidency could mean for them and their families.
“Many of them are immigrants or their families are immigrants,” she said. “They are just really scared about those campaign promises coming to fruition.”
During his bid for the White House, Trump said he would build a border wall and deport millions of people who are in the United States illegally. In an interview on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Trump said he would deport 2 million or 3 million immigrants with criminal records who were in the United States illegally.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate,” he told Lesley Stahl. “But we’re getting them out of our country, they’re here illegally.”
Meza said the students’ actions are inspiring because they’re not only marching for themselves, but also for their families.
“It’s bigger than us. … It’s about families,” she said.
One only has to look to their left or right, Meza said, to see some of these immigrants are their loved ones.
Meza was brought to the United States as a child and grew up in Boyle Heights. She was able to stay in the United States because of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — better known as DACA. The executive action provides a work permit and deportation reprieve to Meza and others who were brought to the United States as children and stayed illegally.
“I am still not afraid,” she said. “We are not afraid.”
The Los Angeles Police Department issued a special advisory Sunday and urged parents to tell their children to abide by the law.
“It is very difficult to ensure the safety of children when they leave the safe confines of their school campuses,” the statement said.
The LAPD asked parents to encourage their children to voice their opinions “in a lawful, safe and peaceful manner.”
Police said demonstrators could face arrest for obstructing the movement of vehicles and people, refusing to obey lawful orders by a law enforcement officer, vandalism and refusal to disperse after unlawful assembly is declared.
Those under the age of 18 could also face arrest for curfew violations.
Since Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton, demonstrators have taken to the streets of L.A. and cities across the country, denouncing the president-elect and chanting, “Not my president.”
The protests have been particularly concentrated at schools and universities. Last week, thousands of students in L.A. County marched out of their classrooms.
Los Angeles Times staff writer Matt Hamilton contributed to this article.
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