Around the Country
Tens of Thousands of Students Walk Out Against HR4437
Revolution #042, April 9, 2006, posted at revcom.us
A tide of immigrant resistance has been sweeping across the U.S.—with more than 300,000 bringing downtown Chicago to a standstill, as many as a million marching in Los Angeles, and tens of thousands protesting in cities such as Milwaukee, Phoenix, Atlanta, and others An inspiring part of this struggle has been the walkouts of tens of thousands of high school students - from L.A. and around California, to Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Georgia, New York, and Virginia, where Black and Latino students walked out side by side. In some cases the students have been met with arrests and heavy repression. Below is a report on the walkouts in Los Angeles.
On Monday, March 27, more than 40,000 students walked out in protest of HR4437 from high schools and middle schools throughout the Los Angeles area, including Downtown, South L.A., Watts, West L.A., East L.A., the San Fernando Valley-and also in Orange County, Riverside County, and Ventura County.
Word about the massive student outpouring spread fast, as the students marched through major boulevards and neighborhoods throughout the city. People came out of their homes to offer water and food to the youth. Carloads of people waving flags from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and other Central American countries drove in caravans as people walking by joined in and took the streets for blocks-including Broadway St. in the garment district of Downtown L.A. Two major freeways-Hollywood 101 and Harbor 110-were brought to a halt as hundreds of students blocked three lanes of traffic.
Throughout the day groups of thousands of students streamed into Downtown L.A. to City Hall-inspired by the East L.A. Blowouts in the late 1960s. They chanted “Aquí estamos! Aquí. nos quedamos! No nos vamos!” and “Hell No, We Won’t Go!” when L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told them to “go back to school,” that their voice had been “registered.” Some students camped out at the lawn in front of City Hall until late in the evening.
Throughout the week many schools were put on lockdown and there has been a higher police presence throughout the whole city-particularly around high schools. Students have been pepper-sprayed, shot with bean bags, hit with batons, handcuffed, and arrested for participating in the walkouts.
A student from Texas who has been joining in the protests said, “I [want to] help my people get out of the trash-filled cities we live in. Look at how poor people are. They have us living in all these projects. With this law they want to criminalize us and they are trying to put us in jail. I was born in Mexico, but I grew up here. If I’m deported back to Mexico then I’m going back to a place that I don’t know and where I’ve never lived. They call us parasites... but we are the ones who make everything. We are human beings.
“I was three months old when my mother crossed the river with me. She carried me across barbed wire at the border, her legs were cut all over... It fills me with joy to see all these people here. I want these people to be inspired. We have to change this world-things can’t continue like this.”
At Monday’s walkout and in walkouts throughout the week a growing number of Black students stepped forward to take a stand against the attacks on immigrants. A Black high school student said, “I’m here to support the people that I’ve lived with. I was practically raised by Latinos. Salvadorians, Mexicans, Guatemalans, Equadorians, Cubans or whatever-they are all my people. I hate that they’re always trying to divide Blacks and Latinos. There should be no divisions...
“I’m here as a Black person to show my support to the Latinos because we are brothers. We live together and we have to fight for the same cause... We need freedom.”
In the face of the police repression and official crackdown, L.A. students continued their defiant walkouts during the week. Sarah, a junior from Montebello High School, told Revolution that “it's scary to think about what they [the fascists] want to do in this country.” But, she said, the student walkouts are “something for the people and by the people. They’re trying to instill fear in us. And imagine if all of us were afraid...this world would be more corrupt, more horrible, and with more hate and greed than there already is. We can’t be afraid of this shit.”