Peaceful protest leads to national recognition
December 15, 2016
On what seemed like an ordinary Friday morning at Central, a historic event took place. During homeroom, after students participated in the Pledge of Allegiance, a handful of students from all grade levels staged a walk-out to protest the recent presidential election.
Junior Riley Kessler originally created and organized the idea to rally, “I saw that other schools around the U.S. were putting together different rallies and protests, and I got to thinking about the fact that we are in one of the most republican states, and Central is the most diverse high school in this state when it comes to minority groups,” she said. “Overall, it was other high schools that really inspired this rally.”
When the idea first came to Kessler, she turned to Twitter to get the word out. She initially asked her followers if anyone would be interested in participating in such a rally. Kessler said the response was “very, very positive.” In addition to spreading the word of the rally, Kessler utilized social media to establish rules and regulations for the rally. She wanted it to be a peaceful protest and an authentic display of the unity and strength amongst young people.
Prior to the rally, both Kessler and Koehler, in addition to a few other students, talked with Dr. Bennett to lay out a plan for that Friday. All parties involved wanted to emphasize the fact that it was a peaceful rally, which was a differentiating factor compared to other protests around the nation. To gain notoriety, Koehler contacted Channel 7, Channel 6, Channel 42 and the Omaha World Herald to inform them of the happenings on that Friday.
About two minutes into the rally, the fire alarm went off and everyone in the building was forced onto the front lawns of Central. Despite this occurrence, the rally carried on. Some people who had contrasting views to those participating in the rally did not want to be associated with it in any way. Anastasia Mustoe, junior, was one of those people. “I didn’t agree with the anti-Trump rally, I know it was more than that, but, regardless, I didn’t agree. Therefore, I didn’t want to participate,” she said. “I understand going outside was for our safety, but…I didn’t want to look like I was a part of the rally.”
“There was nothing anyone could do,” said Kessler. “It was a malfunction in the system.”
“When I originally heard that the fire alarm off during the beginning stages of the rally, my heart sunk,” junior Nick Koehler said. Koehler had also played a role in organizing the rally and spreading the message through word of mouth and social media.
These students used social media to voice their opinions and allowed their voices and the voices of others to be heard across the nation much like this year’s presidential candidates have. “When it comes to the election, I honestly think that social media is the reason that Republicans won,” said Kessler. “Every day when I would check Twitter or Instagram or any other social media, I would see pictures saying things like ‘this election is a lose-lose situation.’ People who read this don’t think for themselves, it turned into a ‘monkey see monkey do’ situation.
At the end of the rally when students were outside after they were supposed to be back in class, Koehler told the students, “We need to go inside and educate ourselves further to avoid a situation like the current election.” Subsequently, students went back inside peacefully and respectfully; Koehler said that this was one of his proudest moments.
“I was overwhelmed with the best of emotions. It’s amazing to know how much support and love there is at Central,” said Kessler. Eventually, Central ended up making headlines on national news and was trending on Twitter in the Midwest. “We came together to show off what we believe in,” Kessler said, “and I think we really conveyed the message that [we are] ‘stronger together.’”