At noon on Friday, November 16, more than 50 students walked out of Central High School, supposedly in protest of the Iraq war. As students crossed the windy street to the city bus stop, the group diminished to less than half its original size. The remaining students laughed and shouted while holding their signs to the windows for passersby to see. At the Hennepin County Government plaza they joined students from more than 30 other schools.
As students gathered, drumming and chanting sounded across the plaza. Students, event organizers and Iraq occupation veterans delivered speeches from the steps. Spoken word and music performances were also featured.
“It was going to be like all those cool things you see in the movies,” said a veteran of Iraq who now opposes the war. “We were all young men eager to kill…. but we were all happy to go home… we hid our pain…I have no problem with the military, I have a problem with the war. I have a problem with the administration who is too cowardly to fight for our country themselves. It is your duty to point your finger at them!”
High school students came from Fridley, St. Paul Central, Saint Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts, Minneapolis South, Bloomington and other schools in the Twin Cities area. College students came from the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin at River Falls, and Augsburg.
After the gathering in downtown Minneapolis, students marched from the Government Center plaza to Augsburg. There they listened to short speeches by a representative from each school. Following the student speeches, an Iraqi vet and former military recruiter spoke.
“I was robbed of my pride for my military service,” she said, explaining how the times have changed for the military because of the occupation in Iraq. “I will never steer a young person towards the military again… you and your friends are their prey.”
Representatives from the Socialist Alternative organization spoke, and a student from Perpich Center for the Arts performed spoken word. Students also watched a segment of the Patricia Foulkrod documentary, “The Ground Truth.” The documentary focuses on the lives of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
“As sad as it is, I don’t believe that this will have much of an impact,” said a junior from Foley High School. “But I do believe people can do something, and that the students have a voice.”
Maret Banks of YAWR at Central High School said, “I think the walkout will get us attention, and to get people to know what we as students stand for.”
Macy Salzberger is a sophomore at St. Paul Central High School.