EAST LOS ANGELES — Seventeen-year-old Destiny Pineda of Garfield High School says that she and the hundreds of students in East L.A. who walked out of class Nov. 14 are not demonstrating against Donald Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States.
But the protests began shortly after the 70-year-old business tycoon won more than 270 Electoral College votes Nov. 8 and continued into this week. The students carried signs that invoked Trump and his campaign messaging, some reading “Deport Donald Trump,” and “Bridges Not Walls.”
Some students waved Mexican flags as they marched from a number of Eastside high schools, making a stop at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights before heading toward Los Angeles City Hall.
Students spoke through megaphones and chanted “United, we’ll never be divided,” and “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here,” under the glare of the hot sun.
The young protesters were not alone in their demonstrations. Thousands of protesters around the country marched in the streets for nearly a week in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Portland, among other places.
A handful of students carried signs blaming Hillary Clinton’s loss on Democrats and third parties. A couple of those signs read, “DNC Failed Working People,” and “This still doesn’t absolve third parties, you know…” showing a laundry list of Clinton campaign stumbles including when she called Trump supporters “deplorables.”
The signs also mentioned Green Party candidate Jill Stein by name, and the Clinton Foundation, which remains under FBI investigation.
Those on the president-elect’s team have been keeping a wary eye on both the national protests and the student demonstrations.
Tim Clark, Trump’s California state director, said, “The older these students get, the more they will understand that the election outcome was the best thing that could have happened for their future. They now have a brighter outlook for better jobs, for a government that won’t spend them deeper into debt, and for a safer and more secure America.”
Even though the East L.A. teens out marching were not old enough to vote, Pineda, authorized to speak to reporters as a media leader, said the students have a clear message and it doesn’t include the foul language on some of their signs.
“This protest is not about Trump, he does not deserve that attention,” she said. It’s for the community, to promote unity and solidarity. There will always be a few that do that.
“They do support us, but that’s not what we’re here for,” Pineda said.
She explained that their reasons for walking out included demands that rape be classified as a violent crime, that L.A. County be turned into a sanctuary for minorities and undocumented residents, and that resource centers be built for LGBT and undocumented students in all LAUSD schools.
“Some people in the LGBT community, and black and brown communities are afraid, not just of Trump, but of the system,” Pineda said. “We want everyone to feel safe and not afraid.”
Not everyone is afraid. A large sign at Garfield High School read “Don’t Walk Out, Walk In!” Vice Principal Abraham Casavi referred a reporter to the school district, but when asked about the sign and if there were students on campus, replied that at least 75 percent of the student body was still in class.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King released a statement about the student demonstrations, saying many students remained concerned in the week following the presidential election, and wanted their voices to be heard.
“These are important conversations that need to take place,” King said. “We want our students to know they are not alone. However, it is critical that students not allow their sentiments to derail their education or for their actions to place them in danger. Students should limit their activities to non-instructional time and — for their own safety and to follow the law — they should remain on campus.”
She added that the best place to discuss the students’ concerns was in school, and that LAUSD schools were using assemblies, classroom dialogues, speaking activities and restorative justice programs to provide a secure forum for their students.
She also said that the Office of Human Relations, Diversity and Equity had made resources available at lausd.net to support meaningful conversations, and that the safety of students and staff remained their highest priority.
While LAUSD school board President Steve Zimmer said the student protests represented a “hopeful moment,” he also said the young people would face disciplinary action for unexcused absences. “If this is important enough to you to walk out, then you should know that there are going to be consequences for that action, and you should accept those proudly,” he said.
Still, he reassured the young people that the discipline would not impact their path to graduation.
City Councilman Jose Huizar also weighed in on the protests, saying, “There are a lot of discouraged people based on the results of the recent election. I’m saddened about the results, too.”
He added: “We must be part of the voice of reason as we move forward. When things go bad there is an opportunity to learn and rebuild. Retreat and regroup. But there never is a good excuse to become destructive.”
Throughout the week of protests police arrested nearly 450 adults and more than 30 minors. Charges included blocking the Hollywood (101) Freeway, failure to disperse, curfew violations, vandalism of buildings and vehicles, and assault of an officer.
Mayor Eric Garcetti also spoke out about the protests.
“I thought it was beautiful,” he said. “I certainly, probably in an earlier incarnation, would have been out there expressing some of that frustration,” adding that “we have to make sure we don’t break too many laws doing it.”
The mayor also said he would reach out to Donald Trump to congratulate him and begin a conversation on the issues important to Los Angeles.