Walter Johnson HS: account of a walkout

March 19, 2003, midnight | 18 years ago

in first person by Eden Schiffmann

On Mar 12, many students, including myself, walked out of class at 1 p.m. in a demonstration against President Bush's planned war in Iraq. Much of the school attended the walkout; several corridors were almost completely emptied. Students "signing in" and picking up brochures full of information about Bush's controversial policy packed the cafeteria, where students planned to rally, to capacity. The first thing I noticed was that signs were everywhere: lifted by arms, taped to wooden poles, draped across the soda machines, and growing out of backpacks. One or two of the signs even read "Go back to class, slackers!"

The great majority of the students, however, were unified in their opposition to the possible engagement. Some started chanting out anti-war slogans, some started debating the issues in informal scholarly rings, and still more wandered around waiting for the rally to start or crowded up to listen to the percussion music emanating from a corner that I never quite managed to reach. Members of several media organizations circled around interviewing, filming and photographing the event.

Finally, the students sat down or stood near the sides of the cafeteria, packed very tightly, and listened to a lineup of several guest and student speakers, including the reading of a letter of support from 8th District Representative Chris van Hollen. Cheers followed nearly ever speaker, with the exception of one Arab-American whose tirade accusing "most" Americans of being racist against Middle Easterners caused more anger than anything else.

After the speaking concluded, the students stood up and marched out of school and down Rock Spring Drive, living up to the name of a walkout. Zealous members of the procession, especially toward the head of the march, carried signs and banners, and sung or yelled songs or chants of resistance. Eventually, the students dispersed and headed back to the school to pick up their things and prepare to leave to go home for the day. All in all, the procession was not only well attended and well received, but also quite well executed. This protest certainly did much to reaffirm the students' beliefs in the validity of their opinions and the power of the rights of the first amendment.

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