After a dismal first attempt, New Roads High School students marched together on January 27 to protest President Bush’s plan to send twenty thousand more troops to Iraq. (The first peace protest, held in early January, ended when the Santa Monica Police Department forced the students to disband citing lack of proper organization and permits.)
The second, more successful protest was organized and attended by students. About half the student body (approximately 175 students) joined together to show outrage against the “surge”—what Bush is calling this current demand for additional troops.
The students are convinced that more American soldiers will come back in body bags or with life-ruining injuries. And all this for a war we can’t really win; and one that began as a lie.
The devastation to date includes more than 3000 American lives plus tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis. We want the administration to stop sending troops over, and stop funding the war. We believe that the money could be better spent, such as putting it into our failing educational system.
The New Roads students marched down Colorado Avenue beginning around 10 a.m. and marched through the end of school day (3 p.m.) with the full cooperation of the Santa Monica police. The students walked from the New Roads High School campus to Santa Monica’s City Hall. Everyone agreed ahead to behave in a completely peaceful manner because the only way to achieve peace is to show what it really means.
People honked their horns and business owners shouted support from building windows as the students peacefully followed their path to City Hall. Los Angeles and Santa Monica have always been predominately liberal communities, but it was good to see people actually voicing their opinions. The New Roads students were joined by The A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition, student groups who have been protesting the war since its beginning. The coalition reassured us that our actions would have an impact. “Politicians alone do not end wars,” they told us. “It is the people who take to the streets and make their voices heard who make the difference. This is how Vietnam ended and hopefully, this is how its parallel war will end.”
When the protest arrived at City Hall, it turned into a sit down demonstration as we gathered on the grass in front of the building. Student leaders handed out phone numbers of all the major political figures across the country including President Bush, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Congressmen Henry Waxman and Senator Barbara Boxer. They encouraged us to contact these leaders, flood their phone lines with pleas to end the war and prove that people have the power. We intend to let our representatives know what we want in a very personal way.
The protest ended with everyone singing protest songs by Neil Young and Bob Dylan. Student leaders, draped in tie-dye headbands and armbands, passed out flyers with anti-war slogans and Allen Ginsberg quotes. The group was careful to recycle all the trash but left picket signs stuck into the trimmed lawn of City Hall, a reminder of what “the people” think.
Reports after the protests indicate that political leaders phone lines were jammed, showing our efforts to be successful. Back on the New Roads campus, the students felt a sense of self-satisfaction because we did something right; we stayed true to our values and exercised one of America’s greatest freedoms: our right to have our voices heard.