Young protesters demonstrate organization, leadership, resolve

High school students occupy, march through Richmond, San Pablo

Richmond High School student Misael Figueroa waves a Mexican Flag on San Pablo Avenue in Richmond, California on Thursday with thousands of West Contra Costa County Unified School District high school students during the protest against the election of Donald Trump as president.

By Efrain Valdez, Advocate Staff

About 2,000 students throughout the West Contra Costa Unified School District marched  through the streets of Richmond and San Pablo on Thursday to show their unity against President-elect Donald Trump’s rhetoric against minorities.

This was the second protest involving local high schoolers. During the first protest on Wednesday, students from Richmond,  Kennedy and Leadership high schools took to the streets.

On Thursday, however, protests were much larger as student organizers attracted students from Richmond, Kennedy, Leadership, Making Waves and Cal Prep high schools, who were all in attendance.

“We need to protest because there have been a lot of discriminatory acts against many minorities,” Richmond High School student Karen Zepeda said.

Minorities contribute a lot to the economy and it is awful that someone like Trump can stop (minorities) with a snap of his fingers, she said.

“I am excited about what these young people are doing. I support their movement and I will be here every time they are out here protesting,” Richmond Ceasefire member Dewanda Joseph said.

“I’m here to support youth because it is my community,” the founder of Direct Bay Area Peace Keepers Gonzalo Rucobo said.

He said he hoped to aid and keep this event non-violent by monitoring and guiding them with common sense.

Some parents have shown concern about their children protesting, missing class time and the possible dangers of being on the street.

Joseph said she tells parents to “chill” and if they are scared for their children, they need to be here shoulder-to-shoulder with them. They shouldn’t be discouraging them.

“I love their faces, I love their smiles and I love their boldness. It takes courage to do something like this at this scale,” Joseph said.

The protest started at Richmond High School. The students walked along 23rd Street toward the Richmond Civic Center where students from the rest of the local high schools joined them.

From there the students went eastbound on Macdonald Avenue where local business owners supplied bottles of water for them.

“We have to support them because they are today and they are tomorrow. We, as adults, don’t need to agree with them. We just need to understand and lend an ear to listen to what they are saying,” Joseph said.

During their march, they chanted “all lives matter” and “the people united, will never be divided.”

The students then made a turn on to San Pablo Avenue northbound, eventually making it back to 23rd Street and Richmond High School where other students had positive words of encouragement for the protesters.

The students’ statements were heard loud and clear as they marched the streets and waved their signs and flags.

Current Diablo Valley College student and Richmond High School alumni Adrian Navarro said it was a beautiful thing seeing what the high school students of Richmond were doing.

“This kind of event lets people know that we are all together and it gives us a sense of togetherness and unity,” Navarro said.

Zepeda said that this was the first protest they did to this scale and that there will be more protests in the future to support those communities that have been marginalized.

Rucobo finished the protest by thanking everyone for cooperating and being respectful to the neighborhood and businesses.

Also, he thanked the Richmond Police and San Pablo Police departments and the California Highway Patrol for cooperating with them and keeping the streets clear, so there would be no altercations.

For the most part, the protests were peaceful except for some students who were caught stealing candy at a local gas station on Wednesday.

At Thursday’s protest, there was an odor of marijuana present at times and a student was questioned by an officer after the march.