On Monday, November 15 – only one day after an ethnically diverse Silver Spring church was vandalized with Pro-Trump hate-bearing remarks – hundreds of students from Montgomery Blair High School walked out of school in protest of Donald Trump’s election. The movement gained momentum as high schoolers from Northwood, Wheaton, John F. Kennedy, and Albert Einstein also participated. The rally was encouraged by the local community, including bystanders who stepped out of their houses to cheer and drivers that honked and held up peace signs.
The crowd first congregated in Montgomery Blair’s stadium at around 10 a.m., where students were allowed to rally and protest as they pleased. Then, at around 11 a.m., some students walked off of campus, causing a catalyst of about 1,000 students joining the movement. School officials have said that students had planned this beforehand and no teachers were involved.
Sky9 captured a video of students holding signs and chanting, “We reject the president-elect!” The video also showed that students blocked the traffic on University Boulevard, went to Westfield Wheaton Mall and continued down Georgia Avenue, heading south towards downtown Silver Spring and eventually ending at Veteran’s Plaza. Montgomery County Police confirmed that the crowd dispersed at around 1 p.m.
Students have said that, since they cannot vote, this is the best way to have their voices heard and to raise concerns about the divisive rhetoric of the president-elect. The protest was also meant to send a message to president-elect Donald Trump that he has not won the hearts of the young. Others have said to they walked out to support those that feel threatened by the recent surge in hate crimes: Muslims, people of color, LGBT people, immigrants, and women, to name a few.
MCPS officials have stated that the walkout would not be considered an excused absence unless parents wrote a note expressing their approval. For the most part, this has not seemed to be a problem for students, as numerous parents have shown their support.
The Blair demonstration is only one of the numerous protests that have been erupting in the Washington area since Donald Trump became president-elect on November 8. Gaithersburg, Richard Montgomery, Bethesda Chevy Chase, Springbrook, Blake, Paint Branch, and Rockville High Schools have all organized their own walkouts.
On November 15, hundreds of students in DC-area public schools, including some from Walter Johnson High School, organized a massive joint walkout to join with the ongoing protests that have taken place in front of the new Trump Hotel. A minor protest was also sparked on the Walter Johnson campus, with about two-dozen students gathering in the football field during fifth period.
Shortly thereafter, students at Richard Montgomery High School followed. Daniel Gelillo, junior class president, organized a peaceful protest for Wednesday, November 16. Prior to the rally, Gelillo and his fellow classmates communicated with Principal Damon Monteleone and local police about their plans. Although it was recommended that students congregate in the football field, they ultimately chose a route through the streets of Rockville, ending at the District Court.
At 10 a.m, shortly before fourth period, hundreds of RM students met in front of the school’s auditorium. From there, police escorts, roadblocks and helicopters witnessed the students walk down Fleet Street, to Rockville Town Center, and to the District Court where students held posters and chanted “Build bridges, not walls!” There, students took turns speaking out about their rights and responsibilities in response to Trump’s election.
The students returned to RM at about 11:30 a.m., where they gathered in the football field. From there, a number of students proceeded on to Julius West Middle School and back to Rockville Town Center for a spontaneous second rally at around 1:00 p.m.
The protest was dubbed by sophomore Tori Crenshaw as a peaceful protest to show that the school is “stronger together.” Students also held LGBT pride flags, and posters with the words “Love Trumps Hate” and other words of encouragement towards people feeling unsafe.
However, there was a student, 15, that arrived early at the walkout wearing a hat with the slogan “Make America Great Again.” Eyewitnesses say that he was shouting racial slurs toward the protestors, and that, upon encountering another student with opposing views, made the first physical act of violence. Several students attacked him, and he was helped by police and taken to the hospital, where he was reported to have no major injuries. Rockville police say that a pending second-degree assault has been charged to a 17-year-old boy alleged to have attacked the Trump supporter. Principal Monteleone released a statement expressing his strong disapproval of any forms of violence and lamenting that the incident distracted from the peaceful message of the walkout.
The county’s walkouts have become nationwide news, being covered as far as California. However, in light of the assault charge and an incident in which a Trump supporter threatened Blair protesters with a gun, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith has released a statement calling off the walkouts and declaring that they are no longer to be tolerated. He states that, despite his respect for the political passions of MCPS students, his first priority is safety.
While political tensions remain high across the county, the protests seem to have died down since Thursday. MCPS students will likely continue to express their concerns over the coming months.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Shane Querubin of Richard Montgomery High School