OAKLAND (BCN) — Days before Donald Trump is scheduled to take office as President of the United States, a group of teachers and students from Oakland and Berkeley called for the total shut down of schools on Friday in protest.
Several protests are planned nationwide for Friday and Saturday, including calls for a general strike on Friday, similar to an action in 2011 in the midst of the Occupy Oakland movement. The days following Trump’s election in November saw mass protests throughout the Bay Area, including many student walkouts.
Yvette Felarca, a Berkeley teacher and organizer with the group By Any Means Necessary, said that more student walkouts were planned for Friday but called on the school districts and universities to simply cancel classes in protest.
“This is an emergency. The lives of our young people are at stake and we will not treat this as a routine matter,” Felarca said.
Tania Kappner, a teacher at Oakland Technical High School, pointed out that officially sanctioned protests at Oakland schools are not unprecedented as schools throughout the Bay Area held coordinated disaster drills in protest of looming statewide education budget cuts in 2010.
The situations were similar, she said, as Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, would not rule out privatizing or cutting federal funds to public schools during a Senate confirmation hearing.
Trump, Kappner pointed out, was not elected by a majority of the people and in fact lost the popular vote by more than 2.8 million, but because of his narrow win in the electoral college millions of people are at risk.
“The electoral college shouldn’t have been allowed for this long,” Kappner said. “It’s done nothing but stymie the majority on multiple occasions.”
Several students read speeches at the small gathering on the steps of Oakland City Hall before going inside to speak to the Oakland City Council. The council was scheduled to consider a resolution urging outgoing President Barack Obama to grant amnesty to undocumented immigrants who could face deportation under Trump.
Bryan Montano, 11, a student at East Oakland Pride Elementary School, said that he hopes that someday Trump realizes that what he’s doing is wrong.
“If we join forces we can stop that cruel man who wants to ruin America by getting rid of Latinos and Muslims,” Bryan said. “I love my country and I don’t want to leave. Trump can’t make me because this is a free state for all of us.”
Representatives of school districts in Oakland and Berkeley said that while classes won’t be canceled, the schools will be addressing the many issues raised by Trump’s ascension to office.
Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki said that while school is scheduled as normal on Friday, many students would be working on issues surrounding the inauguration. Most high schools have finals and a shortened school day, he said.
“So, students at those schools can finish up their work and move quickly to join any demonstrations,” Sasaki said.
Charles Burress, a spokesman for Berkeley Unified School District, said that students at Berkeley High School will be busy Friday preparing for final exams next week. About half of Berkeley High’s 3,000 students walked out the day after Trump’s win.
“Several of our schools are developing a variety of grade-level appropriate activities to deepen students’ understanding of some of the issues that have dominated national attention during and since the Presidential election,” Burress said.
“For example, at Berkeley High, student leaders and staff are planning noon-time activities on Friday to provide opportunities for students to talk about the inauguration and their role as citizens in our democracy,” he said.
Demonstrations are expected to begin at 7 a.m. Friday in Oakland and last throughout the day. Several events are planned at noon in the downtown area, beginning at Frank Ogawa Plaza. A massive women’s rights march is scheduled for Saturday, one of many happening nationwide with the main march happening in Washington, D.C.