The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.59/No.24           June 19, 1995 
Chicago Students Say No To Anti-Immigrant Laws  


CHICAGO - "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the Contract has got to go," shouted some 1,000 students who participated in a walkout opposing the Contract with America and anti-immigrant legislation like Proposition 187. The students demonstrated in front of Lane Technical High School after first period on Thursday, May 25. Many carried signs saying, "Education is a right, not a privilege," "No to 187," and "Say no to [Gov. Jim] Edgar, say yes to public education."

Lane Tech is the largest high school in Illinois. Latino students comprise around 40 percent of the student body. There are also a significant number of Black, Filipino, and other Asian (Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese) students.

Walkout is organized
Most of the students were particularly concerned with the attacks on immigrant rights. "Proposition 187 is an unjust law that takes away basic human rights," said Marilen Corres, a 15-year-old sophomore at Lane Tech. "I know it will affect a lot of people. My family is all immigrants. Proposals in the Contract will take away grants and scholarships that many of us need to go to college."

Support for a walkout spread as students began meeting after school to discuss how to fight education cuts and attacks on immigrant rights. Meetings were held every week beginning in April and gradually the number of students grew from a few dozen to more than 100.

With the help of the Homeless Coalition, students organized a bus for the Mother's Day March against the Contract on America and attacks on immigrant rights in downtown Chicago May 13.

After learning about the planned walkout at Lane Tech, students at Whitney Young High School decided to organize a walkout, too. Both schools set the protests for May 25.

Two days before the scheduled walkout, Lane Tech security prevented students from entering the room where they held their weekly meetings. Students were informed that their club had no sponsor, therefore no meeting was allowed.

This didn't stop the students. Despite rain, they met outside to go over the last details of the protest. Fliers publicizing the walkout were passed out to build the event. On the day of the action, word spread that Whitney Young student organizers came to an agreement with their principal. Instead of a walkout, the students would hold a rally in the auditorium.

Parents and students at Lane Tech met with the administration to try to come to a similar agreement before the time of the scheduled walkout. The administration asked that the walkout be canceled, in return they said that students would be allowed to meet with organizers of the protest during lunch periods. This proposal was rejected.

When the bell rang May 25 at 8:50 a.m. students mobilized outside the main entrance. A few minutes later, some 1,000 students joined them walking out of school chanting, "Students united, shall never be defeated."

During the rally students talked about uniting with the teachers in support of their right to strike, which is currently under attack by the city and state governments. They also spoke about the importance of opposing the proposal to build more jails and prisons. There was strong opposition to the city government's plan to close five grammar schools and two high schools at the end of the school year. In the past few weeks, there have been several protests against these closings.

Students concerned with many issues
At the rally, an administrator pleaded that the students return to class and that there would be no reprisals. After the administration agreed to the students' proposal that they be allowed to meet with a representative of the teachers union, and that the protest could continue in the school auditorium, the students ended the walkout.

Once inside, however, the administration refused to provide a sound system. And no representative of the teachers union showed up. Despite this, the protest continued in the school.

Coming out of the protest, the students decided to hold classes on the proposals contained in the Contract with America and on anti-immigrant legislation like Proposition 187.

The students are also forming the Students' Rights Club.

When asked about the results of the walkout, Melissa Batista, a 16-year-old student, replied, "A lot of people have realized the power we have. We went out there not knowing the consequences, but we went out anyway because of the cause."

Aislinn Pulley is a sophomore at Lane Technical high school and a member of the Young Socialists.

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