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Students Get Crash Course in Protest

By Ann K. Williams
Staff Writer

November 3 -- Santa Monica’s teenagers gleefully took to the streets Wednesday afternoon as more than 200 middle and high school students ditched school to rally against the War in Iraq on the Third Street Promenade.

While the day off from school and work was part of a protest organized by anti-war groups across the nation, many of the local teens didn’t know about it until their parents got an email from Santa Monica High School Principal Ilene Straus Tuesday night.

In it, she explained that students who left campus at noon would have to hand in their IDs to security on the way out and face Saturday school detention as a consequence.

More than 100 SAMOHI students called her bluff as they ran across Pico at 6th Street, whooping and hollering with excitement. Passing cars honked as the teens chanted “1-2-3-4 we don’t want you’re f**king war.”

SAMOHI students against the war march through the promenade. (Phots by Ann K. Williams)

They were met on the corner by Monica Mercedes, a parent and activist who wore an orange t-shirt with a picture of George Bush with devil’s horns and a black beret with a red star emblazoned on it.

Mercedes led the teens on a march through Santa Monica Place and the Promenade where they met peers from John Adams Middle School, St. Monica’s High School, Venice High, Crossroads and New Roads schools, who were ready to rock the establishment with their youthful energy.

The alternative rap sounds of Immortal Technique weren’t enough to drown out the crescendoing chant “Impeach, impeach, impeach” as the rally got off the ground.

But the young adults didn’t want anyone to think they were only in it for the fun.

“There was no point for it,” said Eryca Sunder, a sophomore from SAMOHI, referring to the war. “They claimed there were weapons of mass destruction. Now people are dying for no reason at all.”

Claire Medsker and Eryca Sunder from SAMOHI with their friend Monica Colver from Venice High.

Her friend Monica Colver also a sophomore, from Venice High, agreed. “It’s completely uncalled for. I think it will effect everyone’s future.”

“I feel that this is a war that serves neither the interests of the people of the U.S. or of the people of Iraq,” said Seth Raslow, a senior from New Roads School. “It serves only the interests of the oil companies.”

Even elementary students could see Raslow’s point. A class of fourth graders from 24th Street Elementary School were “sucked into the whole movement,” teacher Ted Wakeman said as he beamed at the children who were shaking folded up posters and chanting “no more war.”

“We want the war to stop because people are getting killed for oil,” Selene, an eight-year-old with the group explained.

Students from 24th Street Elementary School get into the action.

When the possibility that some students might have been motivated by the desire for a day off at the mall was broached, Samie Schultz’, a sophomore from SAMOHI, and her friends’ faces turned to stone.

“A lot of people think that kids don’t understand what’s going on,” Schultz said. “We’re in a war that over 2,000 people have died in -- 2,000 that didn’t need to die.”

Emmanuel Meza surrounded by his friends

The war’s personal cost is also sitting heavily on Emmanuel Meza, another SAMOHI sophomore who showed up to protest with his friends.

“I’m registering with the selective service,” Meza said. “It’s the only way I can get into college.”

While the Westside students were more than willing to suffer detention for their participation in Wednesday’s rally, Jim Acresti from “The World Can’t Wait,” the organization in charge of the rally, let them know that other students have put up with even more.

Calling the president a “killer in the White House,” and a “criminal,” he said protesting students across the nation have been arrested, beaten and subjected to pepper spray in a deliberate attempt to attack free speech.

Meanwhile, students were splitting off from the main rally -- in spite of Acresti’s orders -- to march up and down the Promenade and even into Santa Monica Mall, where security “escorted us in the direction of the exit,” according to Anna Frattolillo of New Roads school.

New Roads freshmen Beau Carrillo and Kostya Marowitz help organizers get ready for the rally.

One teen, laughing and marching with her friends, said she wasn’t worried about the police, because “they won’t get ugly, they can’t do anything.”

Older activists and onlookers were generally pleased with the young people’s political coming out, though some had reservations.

“It’s good to see them out here,” said Charity Hook who stood outside of the Sotheby’s building across the street from the rally.

“But it bothers me when you have 14, 15-year- old kids yelling obscenities at passing cars -- “F**k Bush,” he said. “I hope they know what’s going on.”

Peace activist Jerry Rubin had no such qualms. “It’s good, especially to have the students here in such large numbers. It’s the best education a student could have just now.”

Some of the parents of the students who came with them felt the same way.

“I feel it’s very important, very empowering,” said Dottie Cramer who came with her son Jack.

“School shouldn't get in the way of your education,” Cramer said.

Some parents were reminded of the exciting days of their youth.

"My parents were supportive of us walking out. My dad even said it reminds him of he was protesting Vietnam back in 1968 after Kent State happened,” Ilan Ben-Meir, a SAMOHI sophomore said.

SAMOHI freshman Gabriel Malek, who wants to know how Bush could "get us into this."

By 3:30, when the students usually get out of school, the local demonstration was winding down, but the teens were being directed to the Federal Building in Westwood, where a Los Angeles citywide rally was about to begin.

Students or parents who wish to be emailed larger copies of the photos included in this article can send a written request to mail@surfsantamonica.com.

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