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2007-05-02

Hundreds of Students Walk Out of Classrooms to Support Immigrant Rights

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Students once again played a key role in the May Day protests. In Los Angeles, city officials reported around six hundred students walked out of class to join the march for immigrant rights. Meanwhile in Detroit, dozens of students were arrested for taking part in a walkout that also protested the planned closure of dozens of schools. We speak with two student organizers. [includes rush transcript]

  • Issamar Comacho, Junior at Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles.
  • Jevon Cochran, Junior at Lewis Cass Technical High School in Detroit and an organizer with the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights, & Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, known as BAMN.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Students once again played a key role in the May Day protests. In Los Angeles, city officials reported around 600 students walked out of class to join the march for immigrant rights. Meanwhile, in Detroit dozens of students were arrested for taking part in a walkout that also protested the planned closure of dozens of schools.

Joining me on the line are two student organizers. Issamar Comacho is a junior at Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles. And joining me from Detroit is Jevon Cochran, a junior at Lewis Cass Technical High School in Detroit, an organizer with the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights, & Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, known as BAMN.

Jevon, talk about what happened in Detroit yesterday.

JEVON COCHRAN: Well, yesterday in Detroit there were student walkouts from several schools against the school closings. You know, students also walked out against the ban on affirmative action, against like the restrictive dress codes in DPS that students get suspended over every day, and also in support of and in solidarity with the movement for immigrant rights.

And, you know, at the schools — at one of the schools, Northern High School, you know, students marched down to the schools who had walked out from several high schools, and we were having like a really peaceful protest. You know, Northern High School in Detroit is one of the schools that’s slated to close, and once we got there, you know, the students really wanted — the students that had walked out from the other schools wanted the Northern students to come out and, you know, fight to keep their school open, to keep — you know, because if Northern stays open, that’s just — you know, Northern is the key school that we need to keep open, a fight for the rest of the schools in Detroit. And the students went there, and they started chanting, you know, "Keep Northern open! Walk out now!" It was a really peaceful protest.

But what happened was the security guards and the administration at the school basically just terrorized the students and told them that they were powerless and that they couldn’t fight to keep their school open, that they couldn’t fight for their city. They blocked all the doors, and they tried to chain the students in, and they called the cops. And, you know, the cops like started just attacking the students, the students who had come from the other schools, like Cass, the high school that I go to. And there were — like, we were just standing around, peacefully protesting, you know, trying to support the Northern students. And, you know, cops, just out of nowhere, totally unprovoked, started macing like elementary and middle school students. They grabbed one of the students who had led like walkouts at Northern High School almost two weeks ago, and they like beat him. They beat him. They maced him. They slammed him onto a police car. They arrested him. They arrested students from Osborn High School, which is a high school that over 200 students walked out from yesterday. They grabbed him by his hair. And it was just, you know, several incidents happening, you know, like this yesterday, where the police just attacked students and tried to terrorize the students who were fighting for their right to a decent education in our city.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Issamar Comacho in Los Angeles, Roosevelt High School. Where did you march yesterday and why?

ISSAMAR COMACHO: Well, yesterday we marched from my school, Roosevelt High School, from Boyle Heights through East LA, and also Hollenbeck High School was with us. And schools from all over LA walked out, from Huntington Park High School, from — and Bravo High School and Wilson and other schools, Manuel Arts, walked out. And we marched from down through East LA to the march in downtown LA to join them and to tell everybody in this nation that we are not accepting second-class treatment any longer.

We are not going to accept the INS going into our cities and terrorizing the people who live with us, the people who are in our schools, our friends, our families. We are not accepting it any longer. It’s over. And we are going to keep building this movement until our demands are met. And we will fight. We’re fighting to win. The students will keep organizing, and we’ll be the leadership of this new movement to make — to stop the raids and to make California and every other state in this nation a sanctuary state, a state where the mayors and the governor will not work with the Immigration services to terrorize our communities. And the students walked out and marched, and we led, you know, the march to fight. And we are leading this movement to fight for immigrant rights and to fight to make the lives of every person in this nation really better.

AMY GOODMAN: Issamar Comacho, your response to Mayor Villaraigosa saying the students should not be walking out, that your parents came to this country to make your lives better, and education is part of that?

ISSAMAR COMACHO: Well, my response is that — and the response of many other students is that Villaraigosa, he walked out from his school. He states that he says he fought for his rights and the rights of, you know, his community. And now he’s telling us, the students, that we cannot fight for our rights to make our lives better, to stop discrimination and not accept the mistreatment that we face every day. That is just hypocritical, and we are not going to accept that kind of statement. We are going to keep fighting until we win, and we will fight until we win.

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