Hundreds of Seattle students took their excused absences Friday, joining a national socialist walkout to protest the newly inaugurated President Donald Trump and demonstrate resistance to harmful actions expected under his administration.
Organized by the Socialist Students group, the Seattle chapter’s National Student Walkout Against Bigotry & Hate rallied students at Seattle Central College, where students and activists addressed numerous concerns about the president, his administration and supporters.
School walkouts included Franklin, Roosevelt, Chief Sealth and Nova schools. Mercer Middle School students were unable to take light rail to Capitol Hill due to mechanical issues, so they walked to Seattle Central, said Kailyn Nicholson, an organizer with Socialist Students.
The walkout and subsequent rally touched on many facets of the Trump presidency and its potential affects on students and the public in general, Nicholson, including threats to education funding, muslim students, students of color, immigrant students and LGBT students.
Trump’s pick for education secretary is Betsy DeVos, a billionaire known for her attacks against public education and advocacy of school choice and voucher programs. Her family has given to numerous conservative and Christian organizations, and her brother founded Blackwater.
Nicholson said Socialist Students began organizing with high school and college students two weeks before the rally. The Seattle Public Schools issued a letter to parents in the district on Jan. 13, stating students that chose to walk out would receive an unexcused absence and possibly lose the right to make up their work. The letter stated educators and school staff were “asked to remain at school.”
Garfield High School student Gerardo Moreno Sanchez estimated about 500 students walked out of his school at noon on Friday, but only 300 showed up to rally. There are about 1,500 students at Garfield High.
“That’s very little,” he said. “Two months ago, we had a walkout and the the whole school came out. It just seemed disappointing.”
Students received unexcused absences for that planned walkout too.
Parents, Socialist Students and District 3 Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant were critical of SPS’s response letter, and that the district was coordinating with the police department. Sawant created an online petition that called on SPS to respect the right of students to protest.
The district’s response was that law enforcement was for student safety.
“Saying you’re going to bring the police department in feels more threatening than a guarantee of safety,” Nicholson said.
The district allowed students an excused absence to attend the 2014 Seahawks Superbowl championship rally, the district arguing excusing students for a political event might be seen as the district taking a position.
But hundreds of students did show up for Friday’s rally on the Seattle Central campus, later marching to Judkins Park to join the El Comité March for Immigrant Rights.
Seattle Central student Ezgi Eygi addressed the crowd Friday, calling for the taxing of the rich to fund schools, and freedom from inequality, sexism and environmental harm.
Eygi told the Capitol Hill Times she spent the prior day helping to lead a meeting with student peace stewards.
“We have to get organized and we have to be serious,” Eygi said. “We have to be serious about our demands, and that’s the first step.”
Sawant, who helped organize the Resist Trump: Occupy Inauguration-Seattle march at Westlake Plaza, shared some strong words about the new commander in chief with Seattle students on Friday.
“Trump is a disgusting, multibillionaire liar and conman,” she said. “And there is absolutely no mandate in this country for a hateful, misogynist, anti-immigrant, racist, right-wing agenda.”
The councilmember said people will need to take action unseen in this country in the past 50 years to oppose the Trump administration, through nonviolent civil disobedience that takes over “highways, workplaces and our schools.”
“We need full funding for public schools and free high-quality education to universities, and we have to do that by taxing Wall Street greed,” Sawant said.
Sawant's Socialist response to President Donald Trump's inauguration address can be found here.