Following the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, three Wilson High School groups were inspired to take action. Wilson Common Ground, the Wilson Human Rights Club, and the Wilson NOW (National Organization for Women) Chapter organized a DC Public School wide walkout for Tuesday, November 15, 2016. What started as a small idea inside the walls of Wilson, however, soon turned into a citywide movement.
As noon approached, the Wilson atrium filled with students brandishing signs and carrying flags. At promptly 11:55 the hundreds of students that had gathered left the building and began their march to the Tenleytown Metro Station. Greeted by camera crews as they left, the students were determined to make their voices heard.
Once on the train, cheers erupted at each passing stop as new students from new schools, who had heard about the demonstration on social media and through friends, boarded. Van Ness brought Burke, Cleveland Park saw the arrival of Washington International School. Once at Metro Center, the large-and growing-number of students began their march to the Trump Hotel, located on Pennsylvania Ave. Under the large gold name of the President-Elect, students chanted, “Love trumps hates” and “DCPS students for democracy!”
Wilson students led the charge to say “all ideas are accepted here” after the demonstration group encountered a Trump supporter. As more students assembled the sidewalks became overcrowded, so the group turned down Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Capitol. Passing the words of “Congress shall make no law respecting…the right of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” engraved on the Newseum, students were cheered on by residents. One stopped bicyclist said she, “thinks that it is great for students to make their voices heard. Students are the generation that will be affected most by this presidency.”
Continuing past the Capitol, down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Supreme Court, the demonstration was at its most vocal point. Students from Whitman, Oyster-Adams, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Cesar Chavez, Kipp Educational Campus, McKinley Tech, Ballou, Eastern, Anacostia, School Without Walls, and dozens of other schools had all joined in. The demonstrators then walked down Independence Avenue, along the National Mall, stopping at the Washington Monument.
The students formed a wide circle around the monument, holding hands and cheering as people held rainbow flags.
The demonstration reached its climax as the students then walked to the Lincoln Memorial, which was promptly closed off by police. Demonstrators sat down in front of the memorial, chanting and holding up their posters with pride. Tourists filmed as the students chanted “our city our voice,” “love trumps hate,” and “sí, se puede.” Afterwards students walked to the White House, at approximately 3:30, but many started to leave the demonstration.
The police closed many streets as the students walked, allowing the demonstrators to safely fill the empty space. Passerbys stared, took photos, and honked in support as the students walked. While there are reports of at least one student arrest, generally the demonstration was peaceful and police and students cooperated.
Student organizers of the event had distributed leaflets earlier in the day and as students were leaving school that encouraged students to remain peaceful and respectful in their protests. Many Wilson students discouraged the chanting of profane language and “not my president” that was led primarily by students from other schools.
What started as a group of a couple hundred Wilson kids, turned into an estimated several thousand DC area students all making their voices heard.
PHOTOS BY WILL HAMLIN AND ELENA REMEZ