Fueled by the unexpected victory of Donald Trump in the presidential election, Santa Barbara High School students walked off campus to rally at the Courthouse Sunken Gardens on Wednesday afternoon to show their support for people who will suffer under the new president’s policies. The rally was not against Trump, students told The Santa Barbara Independent. With so much hate around already, they said, they didn’t want to spread more.
Following a red banner that read “Ethnic Studies Now Coalition,” hundreds of students streamed from campus at noon and down Anapamu Street to the courthouse — accompanied by school staff who kept them on the sidewalks and a police escort — in a peaceful demonstration organized by students Sage and Maggie over social media. The accompanying school staff was supportive of the moment. “We understand their desire to express their opinions, a foundational value of our society,” said Superintendent Cary Matsuoka, in response to the multiple student demonstrations being held across the district.
As the students funneled into the Sunken Gardens, a group of elementary students sat on the steps eating lunch, watching at first and then spontaneously chanting “Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!”
“We are here for people who will be affected by his presidency,” said Anna Ariel, when the organizers took turns speaking to the crowd of students that had been joined by parents and downtown workers who had heard of the rally. But they kicked it off with an announcement that the daily paper could not use their statements. “We do not support Santa Barbara News-Press.”
The speakers then expressed what came home to them when the election ended: Trump’s policies threaten their freedom. Over a megaphone, Maggie said, “I am scared” that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. With Trump’s bullying immigration talk, she worried that her friends will be forced out of the homes they grew up in. And, with conservatives in power, she was concerned she will be sent to conversion therapy. “This is the time to fight for what we believe in,” she demanded.
As the next speaker announced, “This whole election is a joke,” the crowd of students began chanting “Fuck Donald Trump!” The speaker went on, saying there is now overwhelming conservative representation that attacks the rights of minorities, LGBTQ communities, and women. “We are not Donald Trump!” she called. “He does not represent us!”
Anna Ariel, a transgender student, said, “It is not the time to hide anymore,” apologizing for her voice cracking as the crowd laughed. “I will go voiceless if that’s what it takes!” She continued, “This is only one of the many rallies I hope to see happen. We will change things!”
As the next couple of speakers announced stances against the Supreme Court justices, that “Trump is not our president,” and frustration with their youthful inability to vote — “The decisions they make affect us. We won’t be told our voices don’t matter. They do matter!” — two Trump supporters, one in a Trump 2016 shirt, showed up. “Can someone tell me why this kid is wearing a Trump shirt at this rally right now?” yelled one student. Police officers gathered around the students, shielding them from agitated students, then walked them away.
The rally ended with a call for silence. “Inhale love; exhale hatred,” the students were instructed. “You are not alone. You have people here that are going to support you through the next four years,” said Sage. “If we keep organizing like this, maybe it doesn’t have to be.”
“We’re not okay with the future that is being given to us,” said one student as the masses walked back to school while chants of “Fuck Donald Trump” drifted in the background.