For the second time in 10 days, some Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students disrupted classes in protest of the nation’s immigration policies.
Five hundred Garinger students held a peaceful protest at the school Friday morning. CMS officials said most went back to class when the bell rang for second period. About 100 walked off campus and spent the rest of the morning marching peacefully toward Vance High, some waving flags from Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico. Police accompanied the group, which walked down the median on busy IKEA Boulevard before shifting to sidewalks.
Vance and four schools near the marchers’ route – Martin Luther King Jr. Middle, Hidden Valley Elementary, Morehead STEM Academy and James Martin Middle School – were locked down to avoid disruption.
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The marchers said they were acting on behalf of undocumented family and friends who fear deportation for being in the country illegally.
“There’s kids that their parents have been taken away on their way to work. Nobody wants to listen to us. This is the only way people will listen to us," said Esbeida Mendez Diaz, who came at age 1 from Mexico.
Jose Flores, the son of parents Mexico and El Salvador, carried a Mexican flag during the march. “Do we look like criminals to y’all? Do we look like rapists?" he asked, referring to language Trump used about Mexican immigrants during the campaign.
The group arrived at Vance just before noon, standing outside saying they wanted to wait for people to come out of Vance. But a CATS bus pulled up just before 1 p.m., more than an hour before Vance let out, and most of the protesters boarded to return to Garinger. About a dozen refused to board it, saying they would walk.
“We’re afraid for our families. We’re not aliens. We are human beings,” said David Palacios, who is originally from El Salvador.
Last Friday students at five Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools staged walkouts, leaving their classrooms to march on behalf of immigrant rights, district officials said.
The actions ranged from a 30-minute, principal-approved rally at Harding High to a chaotic protest that led to early dismissal at South Mecklenburg High. CMS emailed warnings to parents at South Meck, Olympic High, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and Cochrane Collegiate Academy that students who “organized a walkout and left campus” will be disciplined according to the Code of Student Conduct.
CMS has not released any information about how many students face penalties as a result of the action.
Hundreds of students were involved at the five campuses, all of which have significant Hispanic enrollment. Last Friday’s walkouts followed Thursday’s national “Day Without Immigrants” event, in which immigrants were encouraged to stay home from work and school and avoid shopping to show their impact on the American economy.