Why these Lowell students took part in a walk-out and protest downtown after the police shooting of…

Originally published on December 18, 2015

Flyers passed out at the protest, advocating for justice in the Dec. 2 fatal police shooting of Mario Woods. Photo courtesy of Rose Lee

Several Lowell students took part in a walk-out and protest downtown last Friday, advocating for justice in the Dec. 2 fatal police shooting of Mario Woods, a 26-year-old man who was gunned down in the Bayview district by officers of the San Francisco Police Department.

A large group of students, from high schools such as Lincoln, June Jordan, Galileo, City Arts & Technology and Lowell, marched down Market Street to City Hall, chanting phrases like “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” “Don’t shoot!” and “Justice for Mario Woods,” according to Lowell senior Meylin Rodriguez, who demonstrated that day. “I felt like I had a purpose and it was cool to see so many teens protesting for change,” she said.

Students marching and chanting as they headed to City Hall. Video courtesy of Meylin Rodriguez

Lowell senior Lupe Cabrera felt that the most powerful moment for her was seeing how the crowd grew and chanted in solidarity. “To hear youth saying ‘No justice no peace’ means a lot,” she said. “We’re seeking justice and want peace. Violence will not solve it. A peaceful march with strong, loud voices can make an impact and hopefully even bring awareness to more adults.”

Cabrera said she has had personal history with police brutality. “I wanted to take part because police brutality has happened within my family and more people should become educated on how it’s a social issue,” she said. “Growing up in my neighborhood, I witnessed friends being detained and I feared what would happen to them. There was one instance when an excessive amount of power was used towards a friend.”

The crowd of students protesting police brutality against Mario Woods, on the steps of City Hall. “Unidos Contra el Racismo” is Spanish for “Unite Against Racism.” Photo courtesy of Rose Lee

Principal Andrew Ishibashi made an announcement over the Lowell PA system on the day of the walk-out protest at about 11 a.m., discouraging students from participating. It is protocol to let students and staff know that there is a protest involving students, and that the administration knows there is a protest going on, according to Ishibashi. “As a principal, I’m trying to protect my students,” he said. “If they believe in what they’re doing, then so be it. I just don’t want others who are swayed to be a part of it to follow.”

“It’s very important that everyone out there not just SFPD learns that all lives matter, that black lives matter.”

The protest was organized by students and publicized through social media posts. “I decided to go because I thought that it was important for young voices to be heard — and the fact that high school students planned this whole protest on their own without anyone telling them to made me want to be a part of this experience even more,” sophomore Diana Archila said. “Also, it’s very important that everyone out there not just SFPD learns that all lives matter, that black lives matter.”

Rodriguez said she felt compelled to participate in the protest because she’s heard of police brutality in other states but not as much in San Francisco. “I felt like in other states there wasn’t much I could do but when I heard and saw the video of Mario Woods, I said it was enough and I don’t want my city to turn into those other states,” she said. “So I thought this protest was my chance to do something about it.”

Archila wanted to make a difference in the community by participating in the protest. “Yes, I am just one person and one person can’t do much on their own, but forming part of that group and knowing that I had people’s support and they had mine… It was enough for me to go out there and know that I was doing something right,” she said.

Some teachers from other schools brought their students to the protest as field trips.

However, Ishibashi highly discourages teachers taking their students to protests because of his personal experience with them. “They’ve never experienced what I’ve experienced,” he said. “It is basically for human rights. I believe in protests, but you don’t get minors involved. Adults can do what they want because they can, but don’t bring in minors and influence them in a way that can put them in harm’s way. I have seen innocent protests where it got out of hand and students got hurt. That was very bad.”

Two of the many posters protesters held to advocate the injustice of police brutality in the case of Mario Woods and others in the country. Photos courtesy of Rose Lee

Video of Woods’ murder has sparked debate over SF police policy on weapon use. The police chief and Mayor Ed Lee have called for stun guns, riot shields and more training as alternatives to help with de-escalation.

Ophir Cohen-Simayof contributed to this article.