Richmond students walk out to demand ceasefire in Gaza
on October 25, 2023
Over 100 students at Richmond’s Kennedy High School, many carrying “Free Palestine” banners, joined a nationwide walkout Wednesday to protest the bombings in Gaza, where thousands of people have been killed.
Students took turns using a loudspeaker, as others formed a half circle around them, chanting: “Free Palestine” and “Occupation is a crime.” Carrying banners that said, “Save Palestine,” they gathered outside the school around 1:30 p.m. and remained for about half an hour.
“I feel responsible to stop my state from helping innocent civilians get killed,” said Juanita, a student who joined the walkout but did not want her last name used for fear of reprisal.
Across the country, including at UC Berkeley, college students held walkouts at 12:30 p.m., showing solidarity with Gaza residents. According to the Arab Resource & Organizing Center, over 1,700 Bay Area students walked out of schools on Oct. 18 to “break the silence on Palestine.”
While there were no counter-prostesters Wednesday, many students and staff stood quietly around the edges. A few told Richmond Confidential that they preferred to stay neutral.
West Contra Costa Unified School District Superintendent Kenneth “Chris” Hurst Sr. was among the city and school leaders present. “Anytime there’s a walkout, I try to go to the school site just to listen to the students and the messages they’re sharing,” he said.
Hurst said students were excited to exercise their freedom of speech. “Students are allowed to do a walkout. They’re allowed to do a peaceful protest,” he said.
Special education teacher Miesha Gash said she allowed students to make posters for the walkout in her classroom. She said she wants to “give the young people space to let them know their voices are important.”
Gash said students notified administrators and school security about the walkout in advance.
The Kennedy walkout comes after Richmond City Council passed a resolution early Wednesday morning “affirming Richmond’s support and solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza.” Hundreds of people spoke at the charged council meeting, passionately expressing support for or opposition to the resolution.
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza came after a Hamas attack on Oct. 7 in which more than 1,000 Israelis were killed and 200 were kidnapped. Since then, about 600,000 Palestinians have had to seek shelter from the strikes.
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