(BCN) — Inspired by Instagram posts, hundreds of Bay Area high school students walked out of class Wednesday to protest Israeli attacks in Gaza. The movement began with a 10 a.m. press conference on the steps of San Francisco City Hall held by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center and was followed by a call to walk out and march at 10:30 a.m.
Videos shared by Balboa High School students show teens streaming into the hallways chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” Other protests occurred at Galileo Academy of Science and Technology and Lowell High School.
SFUSD Superintendent Matt Wayne said in a public statement, “Please note that while the district supports the right of our students to express their views in a peaceful manner, including their constitutional right to peacefully protest, the walkout is not a SFUSD sponsored activity.”
Wassim Hage, a spokesman for the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, said the students were largely self-organized.
“Some of them were organized through Middle East Students Club, but most other students organized amongst themselves after the call was put out. AROC advertised and supported them in the walkout,” he said.
The Oakland Unified School District confirmed that three of their schools participated. Students also participated at Berkeley High School. Berkeley High freshman Ella Howard described over 200 students filling Berkeley’s Civic Center Park, a public green space adjacent to the school.
Students heard speeches from two organizers and one teacher. Then she said they chanted, “Stop bombing Gaza!” and “Free Palestinians!”
Howard said that in-class discussion of the conflict between Israel and the militant Palestinian group Hamas is light.
“They literally just showed one video for, like, explaining it and we didn’t talk about it again. We had to learn it ourselves,” Howard said. “It was on us to learn what was going on in the world. And I just don’t think that’s right.” She first learned about the conflict on social media but sought other sources too.
“I looked it up. I listen to podcasts. I read some articles and I look at my parents’ stuff,” she said.
“My parents listen to the news in the morning,” said Ximena Boullosa, another Berkeley High protester. “So, then I overhear what’s happening. I have a lot of friends that are Jewish, so they’re affected, you know.”
Boullosa held an explanatory flyer that was distributed at the march, published by the Movement for Justice, a social activist group based in the United Kingdom. She said Berkeley High has a diverse student population, and she saw both Jewish and Palestinian students in the walkout.
“They both participated in the protest,” she said. “Yes, side by side.”
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