Seattle students walk out united against Trump

November 21, 2016

Amad Ross, a junior at Chief Sealth International High School in Seattle, describes the walkout by thousands of students organized in the days after Trump was elected.

SOME 4,500 Seattle students from more than a dozen different middle and high schools walked out of class and took to the streets on the first Monday after Trump's victory.

One of these schools was my very own Chief Sealth. The primary organizer of this event was the school's Black Student Union (BSU), which issued a press release four days before the walkout explaining that the action was not only an anti-Trump protest, but also a display of unity among students belonging to traditionally marginalized groups already affected by the bigotry that Trump's campaign and election victory had injected into the mainstream.

The press release stated in part:

After the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, there has been a heightened fear among Students of Color, Immigrant Students, Muslim Students, Female Students, and more. The examples of hate crimes and discrimination all over the country has our students afraid for their future and the future of their friends and family.

We say "heightened" because the struggle for Students of Color, Immigrant Students, Muslim Students, and Female Students is not new. It has been ongoing, and we come together today to show that we will have each other's backs as we enter this new era.

Middle and high school students across Seattle hit the streets to defy Trump's hateful agenda
Middle and high school students across Seattle hit the streets to defy Trump's hateful agenda

On the night that Trump was declared the election winner, the Black Student Union was hesitant about pressing ahead with the walkout for fear of retaliation. Khaim Vassar-Fontenot, a BSU senator and author of the press release, only supported going ahead after he had a chance to consult with a social studies teacher about what history tells us about the role of protest in tumultuous times.

The answer inspired him to go to other BSU members and "give them a history lesson," letting them know that their ancestors who fought for their rights would not give up. Vassar-Fontenot explained what happened next:

That's when we decided that we should move on with the walkout. This also sparked me to think of the Student Cultural Coalition. I felt that if we were going to do this walkout right, we needed all the cultural groups and leaders at Sealth to voice their opinions and concerns from their own prospective groups.

I then started to go to teachers and students to ask them about the student leaders they knew. From that, I got leaders from the Gay-Straight Alliance, Muslim Student Union, Asian-Pacific Islander Group, Asian Culture Association, Segacib (Native American Studies) Class, MEChA (Latino Movement Group), and other outside Student Reps, to be able to discuss their ideas and thoughts.

The message of unity was translated successfully to the protest, which featured members of nearly every group on campus. Hundreds of students gathered in the streets in front of the high school. Soon adding to these numbers were students from Denny International Middle School.

Junior high students marched with high school students as we made a circle from our school to Westwood Village, and the group's chants sent messages of unity and solidarity in every direction, audible to anyone in a three-block radius. Even police on the scene were supportive, high-fiving students as they walked by.

The BSU is not done working for social unity, and the message of solidarity will still be heard on Chief Sealth grounds. The students here understand the gravity of this election and its consequences. We understand the dangers of Trump's hateful rhetoric, and we understand that the struggles faced by the groups it targets aren't new.

But we also know that unity can overcome hate, and over the next four years, we will not be stopped.

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