Students say they feel their voices weren’t heard during the election, even though they’re affected by the outcome. Walkouts were held in Bellevue, Shoreline, Tukwila and Edmonds, as well.
Most high-school students are too young to have voted in last week’s presidential election. But they say the next four years with President-elect Donald Trump will affect them just as much, if not more, than those who could vote last week.
They’re not happy about the outcome. And now they’re worried about their future.
On Monday, students from schools across the Puget Sound region staged walkouts to protest the election of Trump, who they called a threat to their communities.
Students in at least seven districts — Seattle, Shoreline, Bellevue, Lake Washington, Tukwila, Edmonds and Vashon Island — walked out of school Monday afternoon as part of a national effort. At the University of Washington’s Seattle and Bothell campuses, several hundred students walked out of classrooms in the afternoon. Students also walked out at Seattle Pacific University.
In Seattle, 5,000 students from 20 middle and high schools walked out and held rallies outside their buildings, according to the district, or joined a larger gathering of more than 1,000 students at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill.
During the walkouts, students talked about why they oppose Trump and how they felt their voices weren’t heard before the election. They said they also wanted to show solidarity with communities that may feel targeted by the Trump campaign, such as immigrants, refugees and Muslims.
“We hope to send a message that Seattle students won’t be passive in the face of xenophobia, racism, sexism or bigotry that Trump represents,” said Franklin High senior Quinn Angelou-Lysaker, 17. “We will continue to be at the forefront of activism.”
At Nathan Hale High School in Northeast Seattle, hundreds of students stood outside their school and then walked around the building, holding signs and chanting. They were cheered on by students at Jane Addams Middle School across the street.
For many, the election results felt personal.
“As a female and a Jew and a Mexican, I feel that Trump is putting me and my friends and family and others I care about in danger, and that is not OK,” junior Vera Cohen, 16, said.
Senior Javiera Barria-Opitz, who voted for Hillary Clinton, said she’s opposed to Trump in part because she has high-functioning autism, and Trump once mocked a news reporter’s disability. Her parents are immigrants, and though they are documented, Trump’s immigration and deportation policies still scare her, she said.
“The millennials are going to be left with the mess Trump creates,” said Barria-Opitz, 18. “Our voices need to be heard.”
At Cal Anderson Park, Karen Chak, 21, who’s studying dental hygiene at Seattle Central College, was asked if she thought Trump would be affected by such demonstrations.
“He probably doesn’t care,” she said. “But we can send a message. A community is organizing together. He will care.”
Chak is of first-generation Vietnamese-Cambodian-Chinese heritage. She was there with a “Love trumps hate” sign.
She said she herself wasn’t scared of a Trump presidency.
But among her fellow students, Chak said, “I can feel it in the air. Everyone is stressed. Girls were crying in class.”
A loudspeaker was passed around at the demonstration, which started with about 75 mostly high-school students and then grew to roughly 800 to 1,000 as others arrived.
“The system was created to oppress people of color,” a woman said, using the loudspeaker.
Students from Tukwila’s Foster High School walked out of school and delivered a list of demands to Tukwila City Hall related to families feeling safe and welcome in the city. On Vashon Island, students wrote letters to Trump about what they expect from his administration and to Sen. Bernie Sanders expressing their support for his actions during the election campaign.
During a later demonstration at Westlake Park, students marched through downtown Seattle, occasionally blocking traffic. Seattle students were joined by private-school students, as well as parents and activist groups.
“By protesting, especially if it’s peaceful, we can really have an impact to say that we are here and we care,” said Emma Reid, 15, a freshman at the Northwest School.
Two men, neither of them students, were arrested at the demonstration, the Seattle Police Department said.
Since Trump was elected last week, districts have grappled with how to address the concerns of some of their student communities. Both Seattle Superintendent Larry Nyland and Highline Superintendent Susan Enfield wrote letters to families last week about how the election had affected school climates.
“While taunts and name-calling were astonishingly accepted on the campaign trail, we have not tolerated such behavior in our schools, and we will not — ever,” Enfield wrote. “Although the election itself is behind us, we are now at the beginning of a long journey toward healing and uniting as a people. That healing process must start in each one of us.”
High schools across the nation staged walkouts Monday. Plans for a Puget Sound effort spread primarily through Snapchat, a social-media app.
Students from Rainier Beach, Cleveland and West Seattle high schools staged walkouts last week. None of the walkouts was sanctioned by the district, and students who left Monday will receive an unexcused absence, district spokesman Luke Duecy said.
At the rallies, even the youngest freshmen seemed excited that by the next election, they will be old enough to vote.
“Trump says he’s going to make America great again,” one student at Hale said in front of the group. “But we’re going to make America great again.”