MOUNT VERNON — Chanting “love trumps hate” and “not our president,” about 200 students from Mount Vernon High School walked out of classes early Monday afternoon then marched to downtown in protest of President-Elect Donald Trump.
The group walked to the steps of the Skagit County Courthouse, where several students spoke about the fears instilled in them by Tuesday’s election results, then spoke with Mayor Jill Boudreau outside City Hall about what city government can do to address those fears.
“I’ve been affected by (racist language),” said Angel Camarena, protest organizer and a child of Mexican immigrants. “These are my people.”
The protest was part of a national movement of high school walkouts Monday.
Many of the Mount Vernon students who took part are too young to vote, and many said a march is the only method they have to get their voices heard.
Camarena, a member of the Latino Educational Achievement Project club at the high school, said he heard interest in a walkout at the school. When he didn’t see anyone stepping up to organize it, he decided to do it himself.
“(I was motivated to oppose Trump) when he called Mexican immigrants rapists ... so from day one ... ,” he said.
Camarena said he is concerned with what Trump’s election says about how Americans feel about issues of race and diversity.
Mount Vernon High School is more than half Latino, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Several other students spoke in front of the group, including Drew Shipman.
Shipman said the division formed by Trump’s rhetoric, and his subsequent election, is emblematic of a divide in the American public.
“How are we supposed to heal if we can’t love each other?” he asked the crowd. “How can we be the United States if we aren’t united?”
The group met with Boudreau outside City Hall, and she spoke to them about the election. As a woman in public office, she said some of this campaign season’s rhetoric hit home with her.
“We love all of you, and we hope you feel like we love all of you,” Boudreau said.
She offered to meet with students to talk to them about what can be done at the city level to combat bigotry, and potentially to build their interest in local government.
“One of you has to be mayor,” she joked. “I’ll get tired someday.”
Mount Vernon High School Principal Rod Merrell, who observed the protest as it started forming, said he hopes this protest spurs a schoolwide conversation about the nation’s political situation.