Hundreds of students from the Margarita Muñiz Academy on Child Street march up Centre Street on the morning of Dec. 16 in a local version of the nationwide protests against police brutality, especially against young African-Americans.
Marching from to JP to Roxbury’s Dudley Square, the students chanted, “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “We can’t breathe.” They held signs with such slogans as, “#BlackLivesMatter” and “Our lives matter.” Police cars escorted the march, and some bystanders joined in the chants.
The national protests were sparked by recent grand jury decisions that allowed white police officers to avoid trials in the deaths of Eric Garner in New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. School Principal Dania Vázquez told the Gazette that the Muñiz Academy march was wholly student-organized. It was partly coordinated with a similar march from at least one other Boston school.
Among the student organizers at the Muñiz Academy were Lauris Baez, 16; Marfry Cabral, 16; Lisa Gomez, 17; Patricia Gonzalez, 16; and Douglas Matute, 17.
“Someone just said it in a class, and we all agreed that we should organize. It was a common thought to some 13 of us,” Matute told the Gazette after the march.
It took the teens about a week to organize the march, the organizers said. They met after school, reached out to other schools and organizations, and finally informed Vásquez about the march the day before.
“I feel very proud of them, very supportive,” she said. “All I asked is that it be a peaceful march so that their message could be heard. And that the kids come back to school.”
During the near-three mile walk that started before 10 a.m., people cheered, honked their car horns, rolled their windows down to offer words of encouragement, and clapped in support, Gomez said.
“We felt the support. It felt like it wasn’t just students, even though this was student-led,” Baez said.
And while this was the students’ first step onto the political arena, Baez promises it wouldn’t be last.
“This is not the only thing we’re doing. This is the first step. It’s only the beginning,” she said.