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Teachers, students and parents rally in L.A. against Trump

Teachers, students and parents rally in L.A. against Trump
Arleta High School student Elizabeth Marquez, 15, signs her message on Thursday to Donald Trump for a "tweet storm." More than 100 students and teachers joined before classes to protest Trump's Friday inauguration. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The day before Donald J. Trump's inauguration, union members, students and community activists in Los Angeles demonstrated to put an exclamation point on their fears and anger.

There was no single massive assembly, and cool, sometimes rainy weather dampened some gatherings on Thursday. Protests were peaceful, with no shutdowns or damage to the city. They were part of a national effort in several hundred cities across the country.

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"I am here to defend every immigrant and every person who has been hurt and scared by Trump," said Valerie Rivera, an 18-year-old senior who took part in an early morning protest in front of Arleta High School. "It's terrifying to think what will happen with him in charge of our country."

Events at schools across L.A. were part of a broad action led by the country's two largest teachers unions. The president of the National Education Assn., Lily Eskelsen García, took part before school at Grand View Boulevard Elementary in Mar Vista, where several hundred participants gathered.

Demonstrators marched along neighborhood streets, singing "This Land Is Your Land" and "We Shall Overcome" in Spanish and English.

"We have a new president. Tomorrow we will have someone who has called for mass deportation," said García, referring to Trump's statements about immigrants living in the country illegally. "We're really, really worried."

About 74% of L.A. Unified School District students are Latino. Many are recent immigrants or have family members who are.

At Arleta High, in the San Fernando Valley, about a dozen teachers and more than 100 students gathered, including student body President Pedro Reyes, an immigrant brought to the United States by his parents when he was a year old. Reyes, 18, is not a citizen, but he took advantage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-administration initiative that let him obtain temporary legal status.

"It's important that we not back down," Reyes said. "But I'm going to remain hopeful about the new president. I'm not going to be judgmental until something happens."

I am here to defend every immigrant and every person who has been hurt and scared by Trump.


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Students at at Arleta High School in the north San Fernando Valley wrote their message to Donald Trump on a board that will be part of a "tweet storm."
Students at at Arleta High School in the north San Fernando Valley wrote their message to Donald Trump on a board that will be part of a "tweet storm." (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Rosa Rosas, a 16-year-old junior, said she has a personal stake as a female. She said she was "disgusted" by Trump's "locker-room talk about women."

She added her message to a large poster collecting material for a "tweet storm": "@RealDonaldTrump: Educate yourself before you run a big country. Everyone is affected by your decisions."

By 3 p.m., more than 2,300 tweets with the hashtag #SchoolTrump had been sent to the president-elect's @realDonaldTrump Twitter handle from L.A. and elsewhere, according to United Teachers Los Angeles.

Students chanted, alternating between English and Spanish, "2, 4, 6, 8 — no to Trump, no to hate," as they held both homemade and union-provided signs.

Some of the focus at the schools was on Betsy DeVos, Trump's nominee to be secretary of Education. DeVos has supported the growth of for-profit charter schools and the use of public money to subsidize tuition at private schools. Critics refer to such strategies as privatization.

At Grand View Boulevard Elementary, parent Sandra Habr, 43, said she had opposed an attempt to locate a charter school on a neighborhood campus. She's worried that if DeVos is confirmed, charter supporters will feel empowered to try again.

"I'm here to send a message to DeVos that schools shouldn't be privatized," she said.

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Concerned about possible student walkouts, L.A. Unified officials have declared the day of Trump's inauguration Unity Day 2017. Unity in this case means learning together about civic topics, not unifying for or against the new president, said Judy Chiasson, a coordinator with the district's Office of Human Relations, Diversity and Equity.

Grand View Elementary students and parents march in Mar Vista the day before Donald Trump is inaugurated.
Grand View Elementary students and parents march in Mar Vista the day before Donald Trump is inaugurated. (Christina House / For The Times)

The district has put together a Web page with lesson plans from such organizations as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

A district news release suggests "unity dances" among possible activities. Asked what a unity dance was, spokeswoman Barbara A. Jones said it was "a social activity that could be held during noninstructional time as a way to bring students together. It could be held in the quad or lunch area, [with] music from a playlist, sound system, etc…. It's really up to the schools, teachers and students."

Possible lesson plans include analyzing past inaugural addresses and comparing them with what Trump has to say or breaking down the meaning of the oath of office and having students try to write their own versions. One lesson plan focuses on activism and the efforts of protesters, without asserting that a particular side is right.

Not all the demonstrations Thursday had education themes. One took place outside City Hall, where about 20 people rallied in support of women's rights and survivors of sexual assault.

Several held signs that read, "My body, my choice." One read: "Keep your tiny hands to yourself."

Organizer Keyanna Celina, an East L.A. resident and a survivor of sexual assault, said she was appalled that a man caught on tape bragging about groping women had been elected president.

South L.A. resident Timeka Drew, the national director for Liberty Tree Foundation, a group that promotes grass-roots organizing, said she feels a particular urgency to pull women together in self-defense. She is pregnant with her first daughter.

"I hope that it just doesn't end with marches and rallies," she said.

Bigger gatherings are expected Friday, when thousands could take part in a variety of events, including marches in the downtown area. On Saturday, L.A. will host a sister event to accompany a planned women's "March on Washington."

Twitter: @howardblume

Twitter: @Joy_Resmovits

Twitter: @katemather

Times staff writer Sonali Kohli contributed to this report. 

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UPDATES:

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6:20 p.m.: This story was updated to include a protest outside City Hall and additional comments and details from school protests and the L.A. school district.

This story was originally published at 11:00 a.m.

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