Hundreds of students from Minneapolis public high schools walked out of their classrooms Wednesday afternoon to protest the U.S. agency in charge of deporting immigrants.
They marched through south Minneapolis after leaving school in the early afternoon, holding signs and linking arms, chanting until they reached Martin Luther King. Jr. Park.
"We're standing up for rights, and we want to make other young people know to speak up when something is wrong, to stand up for their rights," Julio Martinez, a Washburn High School senior who helped organize the event, told BringMeTheNews.
What are they protesting?
Broadly, the practice of deportation.
"We're trying to spread awareness, tell them this is really going," Martinez said, adding a relative of his was deported years ago.
"It was really tough," he said.
Late last year, the Department of Homeland Security said it was planning a series of raids targeting individuals and families who had come to the U.S. since the start of 2014, the Washington Post reported.
They're carried out by agents for ICE – shorthand for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (the agents in charge of enforcing immigration laws).
The walkouts and protests are aimed at raising awareness and increasing the scrutiny on how ICE handles deportation.
Collin Robinson, 15-year-old sophomore from Southwest High School who helped organize the demonstration, told BringMeTheNews he hopes people realize "that deportations happen, and they happen in our communities with students that we sit with."
He said about 100 students took part in a sit-in at Southwest. They then left and met with other students from around the city at Washburn High School – and the group as a whole walked to Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
They counted students from Southwest, Washburn, South, Roosevelt, and other high schools.
The district's response
Minneapolis Public Schools told BringMeTheNews that when the district found out about students' plans, they worked to communicate with families and make them aware. The district also began working with police and the parks department to ensure students would be safe – and that cooperation continued through the walkouts and protest.
"The district values students First Amendment rights, and really respects their wishes to exercise those rights," Dirk Tedmon, district media relation specialist, told BringMeTheNews. "But we also have to protect the safety of our students and maintain a stable learning environment."
Students won't be disciplined as long as the protest remains peaceful, Tedmon said (though they may get an unexcused absence).