Hands raised in protest

Students hold peaceful demonstration regarding the ruling in Ferguson

Amira Warren-Yearby

Emily Melbye and Natalie Vig

An uncommon occurrence at the high school took place when 36 students raised their hands and walked out of classes, lunch rooms and hallways in protest of the Ferguson decision.

The protest began at 12:01 p.m. on Dec. 1 in order to honor of the time Michael Brown was shot on August 9. Junior Cedar Thomas organized and lead the event by creating a Facebook event, which was widely shared among students.

In preparation for the protest, students huddled in the foyer, gathering homemade signs and nervously chatting before they began their march.

Freshman DaeBreona Byrdie said she believes bringing these issues to light through the protest is an important step in engaging not only the student body, but the community at large.

“It doesn’t affect just adults it also affects us,” she said. “Being around a bunch of other kids, showing them we can speak out peacefully is as important as showing adults, people of other races and ages that we can protest about things peacefully and still make changes, even though we’re young,” Byrdie said.

However, not all students were supportive. Senior Alexander Jonas said he thinks the protest did not accomplish anything.

“I don’t know what the protestors accomplished, the grand jury already ruled on it,” Jonas said. “There’s hundred of cases every day where a white cop arrests a black person and in this case the media just fueled the fire.”

Despite the dissenting opinions, the students carried out their march. While filling out of the school, they were hit by the icy winds and temperatures as low as 8 degrees. Freshman Alex Monson, however, wasn’t deterred. She said she believes the protest is important for many reasons.

“It proves the point that we believe strongly in this issue. I didn’t just walk out in 8 degree weather just so I can skip class,” she said. “I don’t really like jeopardizing my limbs for stupid things, so this is genuinely a big issue.”

I feel like as a young black person in America, I need to raise my voice on this issue.

— Charis Tshihamba

Principal Scott Meyers said while the school was not involved in the protest, the administration was concerned for the safety of the students, but would be carrying on business as usual.

“The school isn’t really involved at all. It’s student led, we just want to make sure students are safe,” Meyers said. “We have to keep proper attendance. We are going to follow protocol as far as students being marked absent or present.”

Math teacher Chad Austad said while he didn’t see students leaving his class, teachers were informed about the walkout and the possibility students may be leaving during fifth hour.

“The teachers were notified through email so that if someone does walk out, they were aware about it,” Austad said.

Students walked from the high school to the Hennepin County Library, protesting with chants that cut through the icy wind. Thomas lead the chants, which consisted of phrases such as “Hands up, Don’t Shoot,” “No justice. No peace. Prosecute the police” and “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

When they reached the library, the students met in a conference room they had previously reserved and sat in a circle. They began their meeting by singing “We Shall Overcome,” lead by sophomore Elise Bargman. After the song, each student went around and shared their reason for participating in the walkout.

Senior Charis Tshihamba said although she usually does not engage in discussions about racism and inequality, she decided to protest today because she thought it was time for her voice to be heard.

“I feel like as a young black person in America, I need to raise my voice on this issue,” Tshihamba said.

Junior Jasmine Koita agreed, saying she joined the rally to take action against the issues of racism facing America.

While the meeting continued with open discussion about issues facing America such as racism, police brutality and inequality, back at the high school the day continued.

Although she did not participate in the rally, junior Nora Sylvestre said she thought the protest was important for students.

“It’s good for youth to be addressing issues that matter to them, and racism is a big issue that often doesn’t get talked about,” Sylvestre said.

In spite of the support the protest received, some students disagreed with the way the protest was organized. Senior Ashraf Mohamed said the entire demonstration seemed a bit rushed and disorganized.

“They’re speaking about an issue that can affect each one of us. It seems like it was orchestrated last minute, they should have given it more time,” he said. “They could have made students feel more safe about walking out, and knowing that teachers were informed and that they wouldn’t face suspension,” Mohamed said.

While not all students agreed on the issues, senior Kalaia Bouley said she thinks the protest still served its purpose in showing students to stand up for what they believe in.

“As students, this protest sets a big example for our generation and future generations,” Bouley said. “We’re teaching them things that will make people mad, but it’s good to show kids you can make a stand on what you believe in and not be afraid of what other people think.”