CCA students march to protest Trump immigration policies

Students at Canyon Crest Academy peacefully protested President Donald Trump’s immigration policies during lunchtime on campus on Thursday, Feb. 2, carrying signs and marching silently through common areas at the school.

Between 100 and 150 students took part in the march, said Safi Jafri, 16, a junior at CCA who organized the event, using social media to promote it to his friends on campus.

School officials made sure that marchers followed education code guidelines, which they communicated to Jafri and his fellow students, and said afterward that the event went smoothly.

“The student-led free speech activity was calm, quiet, and respectful. They followed our expectations and their actions were consistent with the law. There were no issues of any concern between this group of students and other students,” said CCA Principal Brett Killeen in an e-mail.

Members of the media were not allowed on campus to observe the march, but afterward, about 20 students, all juniors and seniors, came out to the sidewalk in front of the school, carrying their signs and speaking to reporters. Freshmen and sophomores are not permitted to leave campus at lunchtime, school officials said.

Safi had printed and distributed T-shirts with the phrase, “1984 = 2017 #THISISHOWITSTARTS,” a nod to George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “1984,” which chronicles a futuristic society where leaders manipulate facts and the truth to control the population.

Safi and other students said Trump’s executive order banning entry to the U.S. by anyone from seven Muslim-majority nations, as well as his rhetoric before and after the election, prompted them to speak their mind.

After the march, Safi, who is Muslim and the child of parents who emigrated to the U.S. as young children from Pakistan and India, said he has been troubled by both the anti-immigrant rhetoric in recent months, and the new president’s official actions on immigration.

“This is the country I love, I pledge allegiance every morning at school. I would fight for this country,” he said, but that some of Trump’s statements have seemingly questioned the loyalty of himself and millions of other Muslim-Americans.

He and his fellow students said such actions as the immigration ban could be the beginning of far worse discrimination, and compared it to the Holocaust and internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Safi said he decided earlier this week, “I have to do something bold but yet respectful. I have to speak out when I feel injustice to me, my brothers and sisters and mankind.”

The march, he said, “was truly amazing for me. a very heart-warming feeling.”

Other students who took part in the march echoed his feelings.

“No refugee should be turned away from this country,” said Saumya Khanna, a CCA junior. Referencing the World War II era, when Jewish refugees from Europe were banned from entering America, some of whom were subsequently murdered by the Nazis, she said, “No one wants to see that happen again.”

Junior Luca Giles, a transgender student, said, “No one deserves to be discriminated against for who they are or things they can’t control.”

And Alex Poplawsky, also a junior, said she also sees disturbing similarities between the World War II era and today’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

“As a minority, I know what it’s like to feel discriminated against,” said Poplawsky, who has Jewish and Mexican heritage. “I don’t want anyone else to go through that.”

Junior Kane Bush said, “I’m marching in solidarity with people who are repressed.”

While many students cheered on the marchers, some students opposed their message, said Safi, and held up signs saying, “Build the Wall,” and “Make America Great Again,” which was Trump’s campaign slogan.

But the marchers continued silently on their way, he said.

On a Facebook page Safi set up to spread the word about Thursday’s silent march, posts later Thursday said some students were planning a pro-Trump rally at CCA for the next day, Friday, Feb. 3.

Killeen, in a statement issued Thursday, said he and other administrators became aware of Thursday’s planned march through social media. School officials notified CCA families and let them know that if they wanted a quiet space for lunch, away from the event, they could go into classrooms, the gymnasium or other places.

Killeen also said in an e-mail that San Diego police school resource officers and extra administrative staff were on hand Thursday to “ensure for a safe and largely normal day.”