Assembling promptly at 1:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon in the quad, an enormous gathering of M-A students staged a walkout in the name of protesting the recent surge of hateful and bigoted actions across the United States in the wake of Donald J. Trump becoming the president-elect.
A main group of around 1,000 protesters marched down Oak Grove Avenue to El Camino, on to Alma and University Avenue, before circling back to campus on Middlefield Avenue. Another group of around 200 to 300 students splintered off to Highway 101 before returning to M-A. After the groups arrived back, most students stayed in the quad and enjoyed the feeling of community that had been generated in the march.
The walk-out was the result of a chain text and email disseminated around the M-A student body over the past week and was originally intended to be a simple sit-in in the school’s quad. However, the crowd almost immediately began to march off campus and take the protest around the town.
Menlo Park, Atherton, and Palo Alto police all created safe passages for the student protesters around town. While some motorists seemed annoyed at or angered by the demonstration, many showed their support through honks, cheers, and encouraging gestures. One motorist, going by the name of Ollie, even parked her car and joined in on the march with an LGBT+ flag that she had in her vehicle.
Most students present during the protest cited Trump’s controversial rhetoric as the main reason for their discontent, with others citing his inexperience and temperament as well.
As far as reasons for taking part in the protest, senior Christian Wiseman commented, “I just don’t think that Trump is qualified to be president. He embodies racism, sexism, and encourages violence against minorities.”
Junior Emily Rabinovitsj believes that “[Trump] needs to know that he’s not just president for those who elected him. He’s the president for all of us.”
Senior Manuela Velasquez’s purpose for attending was to show that “it’s crucial, especially in a time of hatred and anger such as this one, that we come together and we are … deserving of rights and acceptance.”
“We were all together. I feel like when we were marching, everyone was involved.” – Eric Norton
The protest also had a special importance to the unity of students at M-A. Senior Mariela Gonzalez felt moved by the turnout of the protest. “I was overwhelmed when I saw a huge crowd in the streets showing support and holding the most amazing signs and posters. I teared up because so many people at M-A actually care and support the people who are targeted by Donald Trump. Overall, this protest made me gain more love for this school and everyone in it.”
Abigail Ponce, also a senior, reiterated Gonzalez’s pride. “The passionate students of M-A walked for almost ten miles under a scorching sun and they never stopped, not even when insults were thrown. I have never been more proud to be a Bear.”
The hopes of any long-term effects of the protest were also fairly universal. Cathy Dolin, a senior, hopes that “we will raise awareness and show that we stand together,” while freshman Hannah Baum wants people to realize that “we may be in high school and most of us can’t vote but we’re very affected by this election.”
Sophomores Heath Hooper and Simon Pintz both hope that the protest will help show how their generation feels about the current situation compared to the rest of the country.
Genders and Sexualities Alliance club President Diana Gruber thought the demonstration went well, commenting, “This is the most united I’ve ever seen M-A and it’s great!” Gruber then proceeded to wrap herself in an LGBT+ pride flag and take pictures with friends to commemorate the occasion.
For senior Jessica Chavez, the protest proved to be an incredible experience. “I thought that the protest was so empowering to many students, especially those who felt so frustrated with the election since they couldn’t vote. It was awesome walking down those streets surrounded by hundreds of students. I could finally see our school motto come to life, in those two hours that we walked we found our strength in diversity.”
Chavez highlighted that the protest was about more than President-elect Trump. “Some people might say that [the protest] was useless, but I think that it’s a step toward our generation finding our voices and standing up for what we believe. Some might see the protest as anti-Trump, but I saw it as a protest that symbolizes unity. Unity in frustration, in fear, and even anger. We chose a peaceful way to outlet our emotions and to show others that we aren’t going to just sit on our butts and compromise what we believe in. We stood up and walked those miles together, and the community was with us as they took pictures, shared us on their social media, gave us high fives, and cheered us on.”
The day after the protest, she also reflected on her experience. “Now the next day, even though I have blisters on my feet and my legs are sore, I don’t regret it at all. Today at school I felt every painful step that I took and it was just a reminder of all the pain that most people in this nation are feeling. During the scary times is where brave people stand up, become leaders, and make history. When this election goes down in history, I will be proud to tell my children that I was part of a protest that stood against the hate that has been encouraged towards latinos, LGBT, Muslims, woman, etc.”
Administrative Vice Principal Brenda Bachechi stated, “We appreciate that students are showing enthusiasm for a cause and we would encourage them to turn their energy into positive actions.”
Currently, the best estimate for the number of students that participated is over 1000, however, this number is set to change as the afternoon’s attendance tallies are finalized.
At this point in time, the Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton Police Departments have not been available for comment by our staff and it is unknown whether or not they knew of the demonstration beforehand.
To see more of the action from Monday’s protest, click here for a video compilation.