Hundreds of New York City high school students walked out of class on Tuesday to protest President Donald Trump, filling Manhattan’s Foley Square with chants of “No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!” and “We love public school! Betsy DeVos is a fool!”
The new U.S. education secretary, who was confirmed as students amassed, was not the teens’ only target. Many said they had ventured into the cold rain to stand in support of immigrants and against Islamophobia.
“School is very important to most of us. And skipping something that is required just shows that we care about this protest a lot,” said Samira Mautushi, 16, a junior at NYC iSchool in Manhattan.
It was the second walkout that Beacon School senior Hebh Jamal, 17, helped organize since Election Day.
“Even at our age, we should be able to demand things,” she told Chalkbeat ahead of the rally. “Students, collectively, care.”
Here is what the young protesters had to say about the president’s recent immigration orders, federal education policy and what it’s like to be Muslim in Trump’s America.
Samira Mautushi was concerned about Trump’s recent executive order suspending the country’s refugee program and blocking travel from seven majority-Muslim nations. (The order has been temporarily halted as it makes its way through the courts.)
“My family is Muslim. Most of the people I know are Muslim. Because of the Muslim ban, a lot of my family members and friends have been getting scared. It’s causing a lot of emotion among people I know, and it just felt right for me to come here and protest against what Trump’s been trying to do.
“Sometimes I’ll see people, on social media especially, I see people who are against people of my color and people of my religion … They need to learn about equality. Just because we look different than you and we come from different countries doesn’t mean we’re worse than you.”
Galen Oettel, 18, is a senior at NYC iSchool. He decided to join the walkout to show support for his classmates.
“We have a lot of friends at school who are undocumented immigrants and Trump puts them at risk. We want to stand up for their rights as citizens, and we have a lot of Muslim friends who we also want to stand up for.
“All his policies affect us in so many ways that he wouldn’t understand as a rich, white male. All his policies are so wrong to so many people. And he’s not supported by a majority of the population.
“I think it’s really important to stay angry at everything that’s going on. And it’s be really easy to not be angry because it might not affect me personally as a white male. But I realize that it affects a lot of other people.”
Omer Rondel, 14, is a freshman at Brooklyn Latin School. He called Betsy DeVos an “elitist” and was generally worried about Trump’s cabinet picks.
DeVos is “super unqualified for the job: Never been to a public school. Never sent her kids to public school. Wants to funnel money into private, Christian and Catholic schools. Just a horrible, horrible choice.
“Millions and millions of kids get their education from public schools. It’s the future of America, it’s the future of the world and you’re destroying people’s lives.”