Editor’s note, 1/21/17, 4:30 p.m.: This article has been updated with a comment from SOMSD Supt. Dr. John Ramos:
Hundreds of Columbia High School students walked out of class and marched to Maplewood Town Hall, where they voiced their opposition to — and fears of — the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump.
Police closed down a stretch of Valley Street to allow students to safely walk to Town Hall, and several administrators accompanied the students, including Charles Ezell and Cheryl Hewitt, Susan Grierson, Suzanne Turner and Karen Weiland.
Drivers who were stopped in their cars along Valley Street cheered on the students and, in some cases, gave them high fives. One truck driver honked his horn in solidarity — prompting a deafening roar of cheers from the students. A Maplewood Police officer pumped her fist along with students as she blocked an intersection for them to cross.
Students assembled on the steps of Town Hall, chanting slogans. Many girls chanted, “My body, my choice!” while the boys responded with, “Her body, her choice!”
On the way back to CHS, the chants continued. “Black Lives Matter,” shouted a group of white students; “White Lives Matter,” came the response from a group of black students. “Show me what democracy looks like,” was followed by, “This is what democracy looks like.” Other chants challenged Trump directly, calling him “racist, sexist, anti-gay.”
But mostly the chants and slogans were positive: Bringing up the rear of the protest, a number of students shouted, “Love Trumps Hate!”
The protest, which sprang up before 11 a.m. via text messages between students in the school, started in classrooms and quickly took to the streets. Well before noon, students were back in class.
“Protests today were reflective of the fact that schools are a microcosm of society,” said Supt. Dr. John Ramos. “If we consider what is going on across the country, we should not be surprised that there is a reaction in schools. Some of our students determined to make a social statement. As always, we should pay attention to what our students have to say.”
Ramos continued, “We were impressed with the maturity with which CHS students monitored themselves and each other to keep the messaging positive and focused on supporting each other’s perspectives and rights as individuals. We are very grateful to the Maplewood Police Department for quickly deploying to ensure that the students had a safe path to Town Hall, and back to Columbia High School.”
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