Thousands of Los Angeles-area high school students walked out of their classrooms Monday morning, streaming into the streets for several hours to protest President-elect Donald Trump.
Many were too young to vote but said their futures were at stake and so their voices needed to be heard.
They identified themselves proudly on handmade signs and flags as Latinos, transgender and supporters of women’s rights.
“A lot of us don’t agree with what Donald Trump is saying,” said Evelyn Aguilar, a 15-year-old sophomore at Collegiate Charter High School in East L.A., who protested in her school uniform. “A lot of people are worried about being deported and violence against them because of their sexual and ethnic identity.”
Nearly 4,000 students from about 18 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District participated in walkouts throughout the day Monday, said Steven Zipperman, chief of the L.A. School Police Department. Students from numerous Eastside schools left their morning classes to gather at Boyle Heights’ Mariachi Plaza and Lincoln Park in Lincoln Heights and marched to City Hall for a rally. At schools in other parts of the city, such as Hamilton High, students left their classes later in the day.
“The students … acted very calmly, very respectfully,” Zipperman said. “There were no issues, no arrests, no violence.”
The Eastside walkouts’ student organizers are part of the United Students program at InnerCity Struggle, an East L.A. community group that promotes social and educational justice. They issued a statement saying they were protesting Trump’s calls for the mass deportation of immigrants in the country illegally, the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“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 support all vulnerable communities,” the statement said.
Students from Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School in Boyle Heights held signs that read, “United We Stand” and “DNC failed working people.” One student’s sign was pink with a black swastika and Trump’s face at the center.
A woman who declined to give her name shouted to Mendez High students at Mariachi Plaza: “No talking to the media! They will twist our words!”
L.A. Unified Supt. Michelle King issued 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.”
She said that they could talk about their concerns in school and that the district is working to give them a forum with assemblies and classroom dialogues.
At Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, administrators used the school intercom to urge students to stay in class.
“Students should remain on campus where they’re safe,” their voices blared. “Ignorance … can often lead to violence. Please understand that the greatest way to overcome ignorance is through education.”
Teachers were instructed to stay in their classrooms and keep teaching.
Plans for some of Monday’s school walkouts were announced after students from different Eastside schools asked InnerCity Struggle activist Nancy Meza to help them organize. Meza was brought to the U.S. as a child, grew up in Boyle Heights and was able to stay in the country because of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
Meza said the students were marching for themselves 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.”
After gathering at City Hall, students flowed into Grand Park, where someone beat a drum and others chanted and waved signs. Despite warnings from teachers that there could be consequences for ditching class, students said they were proud to stand up for their beliefs.
Yesenia Flores, 15, a sophomore at Roosevelt High, held a sign: “Trump makes us fear for our lives.”
“All I’ve wanted to do is make my parents proud,” she said. “I can’t make my parents proud if they’re not here.”
Blanca Villaseor, a sophomore at Collegiate Charter High, said she was protesting the president-elect on behalf of her parents. The sign she was holding read: “Latinos contra Trump” — Spanish for Latinos against Trump.
Suzanne Rueda, 15, a sophomore at the downtown Ramon Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, said she’d been protesting since the day after the election. As of Monday, she hadn’t been reprimanded for missing class, but she said she’d heard an announcement that morning over the school intercom that students who missed school could be suspended. She thought that was misguided.
“It feels like we’re leading ourselves,” she said. “We can’t vote. This is all we can do.”
Shortly after noon, school buses began arriving at City Hall to pick students up and take them back to class.
Times staff writer Hailey Branson-Potts contributed to this report.
6:20 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details and comments from students and officials.
This article was originally published at 11:25 a.m.