Hundreds of high school students in Ventura County, CA protested against war today, March 5, 2003. More than 500 students from five area high schools participated in a series of anti-war actions ranging from teach-ins to walkouts. More than 100 of those students as well as 100 more community members then joined a convergence and rally in a park in the city of Ventura.
In Ventura High School, in the city of Ventura, around 150 students walked out of class at noon. Another 100 joined a rally at lunch a half hour later. The administration had threatened serious disciplinary action for anyone who walked out, but in the end, they only gave 20 minute detentions to a few students perceived as leaders of the action. Students are planning to protest the detentions. The protesters were mainly well-behaved, and although police presence was heavy, no one was arrested and only one student, a pro-war counter-protester, received a ticket for jay walking.
In Foothill Tech, another high school in the city of Ventura, students held a teach-in to protest war and the administration's hostility. The administration, which had been warned of possible walkouts, threatened severe disciplinary actions for anyone who walked out.
In St. Bonaventure, a Catholic high school also in the city of Ventura, more than 200 students walked out of classes with the permission of the school administration. Students held a silent vigil and stood in front of the campus with signs. A prayer was broadcast over the school pa system, and many teachers also dismissed their classes, urging their students to join the vigil.
In Villanova Prep, a Catholic high school in the city of Ojai, peace was the main focus of an Ash Wednesday service. Students also listened to speeches by local anti-war activists. After the speeches, students held a loud demonstration, marching to the lawn in front of campus.
In Nordhoff, also in the city of Ojai, around 20 students walked out of classes despite severe threats from the school administration, which threatened to call the police if students walked out. Other students held a rally in front of the campus during lunch.
At 4 PM, students converged on a park in Ventura for a county-wide rally. More than 200 people, students and non-students, youth and adults, attended. Protesters held signs by a busy road and listened to speeches and performances made by activists, young and old. Students from all five participating high schools, as well as adult activists and a 7th grader from a local middle school, were among the speakers and performers.
Students expressed concern about the fate of Iraqi civilians and American soldiers. Many students expressed anxiety over friends and relatives in the military. Students also questioned the government's motives for war and demanded that the money that would be spent on any war instead be used on education and other social services.
The actions and convergence were organized by the Ventura County Students United Against War (VCS-UAW), a local network of student activists. The VCS-UAW organized the actions in response to the call for a student strike for "Books Not Bombs." Organizers hope that the walkouts and demonstrations will build momentum for future actions. (The VCS-UAW can be reached at email@example.com.)