Revolution #104, October 14, 2007
Watts, Los Angeles:
Locke High School Students Walk Out in Support of the Jena 6
We received the following report from a correspondent in Los Angeles, about a walkout at a high school in Watts in support of the Jena 6 on September 20. See last week’s Revolution for articles about the protest of tens of thousands in Jena on that day and in many cities and campuses around the country (available online at revcom.us).
On September 20, students at Locke High School in Watts ran down the hall, pounding on lockers and shouting “Free the Jena 6,” and then burst out through the front doors. Close to a thousand youth walked out of the school and filled the street outside, some holding up homemade signs or Revolution newspaper posters.
Black and Latino students acted together to carry out this protest. One young Black woman carried a sign she had made the night before with clippings from Revolution newspaper: pictures of the “whites-only” tree in Jena, the students at Howard University wearing “Free the Jena 6” t-shirts, and Latino immigrants in foot shackles being led away by immigration police. She compared that picture of the immigrants in chains to what Black people have gone through in history and face today. A Chicana student said, “It’s not just Black, there’s Mexicans here too because we’re all in this together.”
Several hundred of the students who walked out marched about two miles down Imperial Highway to Southwest College where they held a speak-out. Police followed the march all the way, telling the students to get on the sidewalk, but they refused. Passing cars honked in support, and residents and store owners raised their fists and applauded.
At Southwest, a teacher’s assistant told Revolution: “I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe all those kids. They were coming out because they believe in a cause. That melted my heart. It was not only the Blacks, but every other race came together. They had been talking about the situation [in Jena] for days and asking ‘What should we do?’ They talked about how they get arrested for no reason, none at all, and how it’s not right. It’s an injustice and people need to protest because the people have the power.” She continued, “I came here to speak up and a police officer told me to lower my voice! I said, ‘I will not lower my voice!’ We won’t shut up. We won’t stop for nothing!”
Rally at Leimert Park
September 20 actions in Los Angeles started with a 6 a.m. march of about a hundred people down Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood organized by the Black Surfers Association. A rally in Leimert Park drew nearly a thousand people from all over the city. College students who had held rallies at their schools and students from nearby high schools came after school. Some of the Locke students made their way to Leimert as well.
A young Chicana from Valley College said, “We’re supposed to be equal, but we’re not… When I first heard about this I just couldn’t believe the nooses… This stuff is still going on. It wasn’t just back then.”
Two Locke students got on stage, and one told the crowd, “We walked out because we feel that actions speak louder than words. We went to Southwest College and now we’re here [in Leimert]. It made me feel angry that they can do this to Black folks. That they can just kill us and grab people up for doing nothing. This is happening everywhere.” A woman on stage with them said, “I’m a student at Southwest College. I was so touched to see these young people come to our school—they walked all the way from Locke High School in Watts—and it just really touched me so much that I wanted to be a part of it.”
Another student from Valley College said, “We need the radicals back on the high school and college campuses. We need to get people to open their eyes to what’s going on in the world. People shouldn’t just look straight at what’s in front of them. People need to be open-minded to everything, not just one thing.”
“We Need to Start a Movement”
A couple weeks ago most Locke students didn’t know about the Jena 6, but when they found out they became outraged and active. On Tuesday, two Chicano students from the school boarded a bus for the long trip to Jena. One of them had started announcing it in her classes from the minute she decided to go. A teacher proudly told her to go to Jena and represent Locke there. The student told her classmates that they had to do something important at the school on September 20.
One of the students who started organizing early on described the transformation at the school. “I did a current event on the Jena 6 and people couldn’t believe that this was happening here and now. People were dumbfounded…then we started to get out the word of the walkout and things spread really fast.” She said, “Revolution was really important because it showed people the truth that they don’t get anywhere else. That’s how they [the students] found out about this. The teachers told us that they support us and that they’re behind us—that we should keep it up.”
In the days leading up to the walkout, students covered the hallways with posters and signs saying “Free the Jena 6.” As the students gathered for the walkout on Sept. 20, one of them explained, “We need to start a movement. We wanted to, but we couldn’t go down to Louisiana. But this [walkout] is how we can support this.”
Near the end of the day, a freshman from Locke who had gone to the rally at Leimert Park said, “I feel that it was important to make a statement by walking out—we’re showing people that we do care about what’s going on to the people, no matter how far away they are. I’m standing up for something I believe in.”
The student who had done the current event said, “The fact that this is happening now really got people fed up. We’re fed up with what the system is doing to us. It’s not just the Jena 6. We’re fed up with what’s going on in the world.” She ended her comments by saying, “We have to keep on fighting.”
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