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A (Mostly) Silent Protest Unifies JJHS Students Against Bullying

Jennifer Fisher

Jennifer Fisher

Jessica Moss, News Editor

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At 2:09 pm on Tuesday, November 15th, approximately 140 John Jay High School students stood in the freezing rain in front of their school. They chose to “walk out” of their ninth period classes to protest national and local bullying in the wake of this controversial election season.

But do not be mistaken: the event’s primary organizers – Isabelle Pierce, Will Palmieri, Hannah Ziegler, Caleigh Morgan, Kent Leska-Kent, and Sofia Rossi–insist that the event was not a protest against President Elect, Donald J. Trump. Rather, it was meant to be a “non-partisan event with no political affiliation,” as proclaimed on the event’s Facebook page.

Will Palmieri summarized this perfectly: “People are afraid to go to school, because they have been marginalized and are disaffected. That’s not okay. We are here to stand with them and return their voices.”

People are afraid to go to school, because they have been marginalized and are disaffected. That’s not okay. We are here to stand with them and return their voices.”

— Will Palmieri

While all students unified on this chilly afternoon–signs, umbrellas, raincoats, and all–to protest harassment, the groups individual students chose to represent varied. People filled their “I stand with…” signs with marginalized groups such as LGBT individuals, women, African-Americans, latinos, refugees, and Muslims. All of these groups have recently faced harassment across the country. By showing their unified effort to protect these minorities, student protesters hope to end school harassment.

A JJHS junior, Daylin Litchman, stated that he was there to “protest the oppression and hate that minorities face from day to day.” Many gave similar answers; Senior Ashley Ramsay said that she stood for women’s rights; Junior Charles Rusciano said he stood for LGBTQA+ rights.

Not all students stood solely for minority rights. JJHS junior Emily Pardo stated she stood for “respect for all other human beings.” Senior Ishmam Nur stated he stood to “discourage the recent influx of negative behavior.” Senior Lizzy Perry says that “there are people that can’t stand up for themselves.” She believes that “it’s our job, as well-off people, to advocate for people who can’t advocate for themselves.”

So, how effective was the walkout? It certainly gained recognition: school administrators and police officers stood nearby. News 12 covered the peaceful protest from across the street.  However, students not involved in the walkout seemed to misunderstand it. A group of students hung an enormous Trump/Pence sign in the high school window for protesters to see. It was quickly removed, since the walkout was not held in opposition the president elect.

In fact, JJHS senior Annabelle Puglisi stated she stood against “violence toward LGBT’s, minorities, and Trump supporters alike.” She claimed she wanted to end hate, and our new president’s symbolism of that hate.

In response to the window display, approximately one fifth of the demonstrators (myself included) broke the silence. They cried, “minority rights are under attack | it’s our job to fight back,” granting a voice to often silenced oppressed groups. This was effective in encouraging strength and support for minority students, but dis-unified the protesters. Again, this well-intentioned dissent dissipated quickly.

Whether the walkout itself influenced the John Jay Student body in a positive way is yet to be determined, but one thing is certain: the willingness of these young protesters to stand in the cold rain for the rights of marginalized groups encourages a future America more bright and generous than the one we live in today.

 

Jennifer Fisher

1 Comment

One Response to “A (Mostly) Silent Protest Unifies JJHS Students Against Bullying”

  1. Ching Chong Ling Long on November 16th, 2016 11:13 pm

    I’m Asian. I was born in and lived within the Katonah-Lewisboro community until about two years ago, when my family and I moved to California, which is very much its own liberal bubble. I heard about the walkout through a friend of mine. When they texted me about it, I was a little surprised. I knew JJMS, and JJHS by extension I guess, was pretty liberal, but these were the same people who stood idly by as their friends and classmates made slant-eye jokes in my face.
    So to see these people, mostly white, saying things like “minority lives are under attack, it’s our job to fight back” is a little… I don’t know how to say it besides this: seeing a bunch of white people going “I stand with (race)” is a little white-savior-y. This is only my personal interpretation as a (former, lol, my school is at least 90% Asian/Indian) member of a racial minority, but the signs and that chant made it seem as if minorities are totally dependent on the majority. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, think white settlers try to “civilize” a Native American group when they were perfectly fine living by themselves. (The walkout was organized by and essentially for white people. That’s not to say that other minorities like religious, LGBTQ+, etc. don’t exist within JJMS/HS, but since there were people holding “I Stand with (racial minority) signs who definitely haven’t experienced racial oppression, I saw it as racial minorities being spoken over/for by white people rather than speaking for themselves. I did see a few nonwhite people in the crowd, though, and salute them for taking a stand.)
    If times have changed since I moved, if people are now willing to stand up for and with an Asian who’s being taunted with “go back to China” and slant-eye jokes and “ching chong ling long” against their friends and classmates, if they are now willing to stand up with minorities, then I commend the JJHS students who participated in the walkout. If they came simply to express some hidden anger and speak OVER and FOR minorities when they do not understand what being a racial minority is like, then I will be glad to have moved out.

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