RW ONLINE: Hour of Resistance: L.A. School Walkouts
Hour of Resistance: L.A. School Walkouts
Revolutionary Worker #1186, February 9, 2003, posted at rwor.org
Cynics always try to paint the youth, especially high school students, as
being apathetic, as not caring about anything or anyone. However, on Monday,
January 27, when the clock struck noon, students in Fairfax High School walked
out of their school in the hundreds against the war, shutting down the streets
for two hours. Walkouts--speaking out against a future of war and
repression--were also held in Montebello High, near East L.A.; John Burroughs
HS; in Burbank, San Fernando HS; and the University of Southern California (USC)
on the same day. The walkouts were coordinated by NION, in response to a call
made nationwide for an hour of resistance, and were organized by the students
At Fairfax, of the several hundred students, there were kids from all the
different scenes. They were mainly Black and Latino, but there were hip-hop
heads, punks, anarchists, and the anti-war activists who organized the walkout.
More than half the student body was there. The youth were rowdy--yelling,
chanting, and excited that they had taken over the streets. To show their
opposition to the unjust war in Iraq, the students took over the corner of
Fairfax and Melrose and held a sit-in right in the middle of the street.
When the L.A. school district heard about the walkout, they unleashed the
LAPD riot police on the youth. About 50 riot police were sent to the school. The
students were fearless though. A member of the Youth Network of NION described
them like this: "The students were really fierce, standing up against the war at
first and when the police came in to quiet them down, they did not back down."
The police were in full riot gear and were aiming beanbag shotguns at people's
heads. They shut down the streets around the school. Police cars were hit with
bottles and rocks when they rode through the crowd of students. The youth
chanted, "Fuck the war! Fuck the Police!"
One of the organizers of the walkout, Sam, a junior at Fairfax and member of
the Youth Network of NION, was arrested and detained when he supposedly crossed
a "police scrimmage line," but Sam said there wasn't any scrimmage line. Sam
told me, "They just didn't like what I was doing. They tossed me in the back of
a squad car and took me to the Hollywood Police Station. They didn't give me a
ticket, they just detained me, just to suppress my right to speak." The cops
told the legal observers that Sam was being arrested for "inciting a riot." When
he was picked up by the police, students chanted, "Let him go!" After a couple
of hours of detainment, Sam was released to his parents.
When the action was ended after an hour or so, the students went back into
the school auditorium for a speak-out and teach-in. Some NION members went
around Melrose Ave., while the streets were still closed, asking the shop owners
to put up the NION globe poster on their windows. The shop owners were helping
activists tape up the posters and showing their support for the walkout. A
couple of shop owners actually confronted the cops and told them that they were
scaring away their business, and told them to leave. The arrogant cops
responded, "Don't you think it's these kids that are scaring away your
customers?" An Iranian shop owner assured, "No, it's you. These kids are
standing up against the war, they want peace in the world. I want peace in the
world too, so I support them. I support them, and we want them to be out here."
Things happened a little differently at Montebello High School. Crystal
explained to me how she organized her school, "I got this flyer and made more
than 200 copies and started passing them out in school. By the next day,
everybody knew about the walkout. Kids started planning different things, like
making banners." As soon as the principal found out what was being planned, he
started to send the security guards to bully the students. Anyone who was caught
with a flyer was interrogated until Crystal fearlessly announced that she was
planning a walkout. The principal called the walkout illegal. Crystal said that
on the day of the walkout the atmosphere in the school was tense. Teachers were
giving speeches about why the students shouldn't walk out, while the youth were
excited and scared at the same time, but at 12 p.m. everybody left their
The school was like a prison, with a spiked 10-foot fence all around. On that
day the "prison" was guarded heavily by the principal (the warden) and the
police. Security guards barred doors closed with chains; while police guarded
the door from the outside, a helicopter circled the school, and six to eight
squad cars patrolled the streets.
The youth and their rebel spirit were not bogged down by this though. Some
were having a sit-in in the school field, and some gathered to figure out ways
to walk out. When students saw that they couldn't get out through the front
door, some started jumping the fence. About twenty kids jumped, and raised their
protest signs and placards. The cops isolated this one youth, and as soon as he
jumped the fence, he was socked in the face. A member of the RCYB was arrested
when he was doing agitation over the bullhorn. He was detained for five hours
and later released, confiscating his backpack and bullhorn, and charging him
with three misdemeanors.
While all this was happening the principal was going after Crystal for
organizing this action. She explained to me how she got detained and handcuffed
by the principal: "I was running to the front gate when they got me, and the
principal told me to go to his office. I walked out the building, through
another way, and kept protesting through the school." Later, when Crystal was
caught again, the principal instructed a security guard to put handcuffs on her.
The principal grabbed Crystal by the left arm, and shook her, bruising her
really bad. Crystal still resisted, she escaped the principal's office twice.
When she was trying to jump the fence of her school, a security guard grabbed
her by the belt, pulling the belt off of her and slamming her on the ground.
Later they tried to expel her from Montebello High, but NION members and her mom
came to defend her. They pointed out the bruises on Crystal's arms and scared
the principal into letting her back into school. On Wednesday, January 29,
another walkout was organized at a nearby school called Schurr High School.
Other walkouts happened throughout Los Angeles on the 27th. In John Burroughs
High School in Burbank 150 students walked out. Students who walked out were
given Saturday School for truancy, but students are fighting this, saying that
it's only because of political reasons that they're being given Saturday School,
and this is supposedly illegal.
In San Fernando High School Roberto, who is 16, was attempting to walk out
with a couple of dozen students when they were stopped by administration and
school security as they were making their way to the gate. Roberto, who was
holding a banner, was thrown to the ground by the school dean and later kicked
out of the school for organizing, but NION will fight for him and against the
school for doing this in the first place.
The walkouts on Monday have challenged other high schools and different
campuses to do the same. Other walkouts are being planned for different
Actions were also held on college campuses like the University of Southern
California and Cal State Northridge (CSUN). At USC, Carl Dix, national
spokesperson for the RCP, took part in a speakout to mark the hour of
resistance, and there was a sizeable student walkout. On Wednesday, January 29,
at CSUN 500 people marched and spoke out against the ROTC (Reserve Officers
Training Corps) on that campus. This action was organized by Students Against
War. They had guerrilla theatre that mocked the school president--who they are
pressuring to remove ROTC.
When I talked with older people about the actions on that day, they said they
were moved and inspired when they saw all these youth walk out of school at
Fairfax High. When high school students walk out, it puts these war pigs on the
defensive. They always try to portray the youth as not caring about anything,
but when we step out in numbers, like we did in Montebello, in Fairfax High, and
USC, it shows people that no, we're not having this future of war and
repression. It challenges other schools and other people to step out in that
way. When these actions get attacked by the police in an attempt to scare the
youth and to silence us, it just exposes their reactionary police-state
No, the youth will not be silenced, and we will not be broken, because the
future of the planet is on the line.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker
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