As Hate Crimes Spike Nationwide, Students Lead Silent Protest


Alicia Estrada ’19 sits on the staircase following a silent march around the school in protest of discrimination.

By Sofie Lie, City High School

To echo a sit-in led by West High students, on Friday, November 18th, a group of ten City High students silently walked through the halls during seventh hour, holding signs in protest of discrimination.

The silent protest, which culminated in the main foyer, was led by Alma Apolonio Bernal ‘17. To organize the protest, Apolonio Bernal simply sent out a snapchat the day before, inviting allies and victims of discrimination to join her in silent protest. On the day of, a group of ten students assembled during lunch to craft hand made signs that they would carry through the halls during 7th hour and after school.

“It was kind of a social media thing,” Apolonio Bernal said.

The reaction, she said, was as expected: some students laughed, some pointed, some expressed their support. Ultimately, though, Apolonio Bernal hopes that the intent of the protest–to foster a sense of unity in the face of discrimination–was clear.

“I hope that people got our message; I hope that they understood what we were trying to say,” she said.

In addition to condemning discrimination, the protest aimed to express solidarity between two Iowa City schools: City and West High.

“We thought that we would put this together to show that, while we’re both rivals, we can get along with each other well,” said Laura Apolonio Bernal ‘19, Alma’s younger sister who also partook in the protest.

The protest was not randomly timed, according to Byron Ortiz ‘18; rather, it was in response to a spike in hate crimes (up 6% from 2014) across the United States in the past year, as reported by the F.B.I. in an article released Monday. Ortiz, one of the ten student protesters, cites an ever-intensifying feeling of discrimination, specifically following the November 8th triumph of President-Elect Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, as his motive for participating in the protest.

“It exists at City High, but it’s people giving dirty looks to each other,” Ortiz said. “We’re all supposed to be equal and happy,” he continued. “We’re not supposed to feel uncomfortable in the community.”

This wasn’t the first organized effort at City High to protest the fallout of the election; last week, a group of students, led by Armani Smith ‘17, staged a walkout in opposition to Trump’s win. Apolonio Bernal anticipates that there will be further organized student efforts in the coming months.
“I think it was successful,” she said. “Later on, we might have similar protests.”

In both protests in the past two weeks, administration has not intervened: such expressions of free speech are fundamental to school-wide unity, asserts Principal John Bacon.

“I respect students organizing in a peaceful, respectful manner to make their voices heard on subjects that they care deeply about,” he said following the silent protest. “The last couple weeks have been an emotional time for many students so I believe the sense of togetherness and unity they found with these actions has been positive for them.”

Read the original story here.