A crowd of Ventura High School (VHS) student protesters marched from the “Atoms for Peace” statue outside of VHS to Ventura City Hall on Nov. 19. They walked in order to show their discontent with the outcome of the election and to push for political activism.
The protest was organized largely by senior Tatiana Espinoza and junior Lily Valadez. It consisted mostly of students but was accompanied by sympathetic adults, attorneys and school administration.
Students came forward with a list of demands to be brought forth to VHS. The demands were as follows:
- That VHS must become a sanctuary school (a concept similar to that of sanctuary cities).
- That VHS must be a zero tolerance school with regards to bullying of any sort.
- That ethnic studies be incorporated into the curriculum as a part of the A through G requirements.
These demands are to be given to the school by the students with hopes that they will be met.
Students were gathered in hopes to have their voices heard, and make a change.
“We’ve seen other schools do it, and we question why our school hasn’t done anything,” Espinoza said.
According to Espinoza, their hopes for the march were to “not have hate but love, and bring everyone together in support of the next four years so that we can all be accepting of each other.”
The proceedings were an unofficially organized and non-school sanctioned event so no permission was needed. However, Ventura Unified School District Superintendent Michael Babb and Principal Carlos Cohen attended in order ensure the safety of the students and that laws were abided by.
They stated that student safety was their main concern and that they were in support of students’ first amendment rights to free speech and to peaceably assemble.
“I’m only and always concerned about the students’ safety and well-being,” Babb said.
Warning: Video contains explicit language.
Cohen’s thoughts mirrored those of Babb.
“My concern for all of you… is safety, for all my students, for those who are celebrating the election, and for those who are not happy with the outcome, both of them deserve the right to feel safe,” Cohen said.
The adults that marched with the students were present for much the same reason, namely safety and support of the rights of students. They came from a number of places to show their support, with one man going so far as to bike from Oxnard in order to protest.
“We are supporting the student youth here at Ventura High as the community, supporting their voice and supporting their action,” protester and VHS parent Magdalena Rodriguez said.
Attorney Jill Friedman was present to act as a legal observer in protection of the students and to help them to register to vote.
“Some of us [attorneys] volunteered to be legal observers, and what I wanted was to get these high school students when they’re motivated and organized, and get them signed up to vote so that it’s not just talking about it […] but doing something,” Friedman said.
Bystanders at VHS displayed an array of emotions from support to apathy as a result of the uncommon occurrence of a protest.
“Personally I don’t think it’s a good idea because they can’t really change anything,” bystander Shane Stallings said.
Drivers honked their horns in support as they passed the marching students and the marchers chanted as they walked. The students marched up the steps, and into Ventura City Hall, where their chants echoed even louder than before. They proceeded to rally in front of the Junipero Serra statue where the list of formal demands was given.
After a time the students disbanded, hoping that their voices had been heard, and that their demands might be met.
“I like the fact that our students are being respectful […] while exercising their First Amendment right,” Cohen said.