Hours after the Visalia Unified School District’s decision to take down the signs outside of El Diamante High School on Monday, BLM protesters gathered outside the school around 8:30pm to protest and announce that they will not comply with the District’s decision. On July 3rd, the date the signs are scheduled to be taken down, supporters of the BLM movement intend on forming a human chain blocking access to the posters.
“I know some of you probably don’t agree and think we should not be protecting them”, Serena motioned to the BLM signs that covered the length of the fence, “But as a Black student, when I see this I feel like I have everyone with me…To see this is amazing. We’re also honoring George Floyd, Elijah Mclain, Breonna Taylor, all the names up here, so the fact that they’re taking it down is disrespectful.”
Staff from VUSD like Brandon Gridiron, Administrator of Equity and Student Services, were present at the protest to continue communication, support their voices, and ensure the safety of students.
While Gridiron supports youth involvement in the protests, he was concerned the signs were distracting students from making a real difference:
“I’ve told students often, I don’t want their voices to be stuck at the fence and for the fence to become a distraction from really making change. I want them to have an opportunity to make their voice heard in such a way that actually makes change.”
It appears that protesters have taken that advice to heart because they do not plan on keeping the signs up forever.
“We will not move until they pull up with the police,” Salcido explained. “When they tell us the last time that we have to take them down, we will all turn around and take the posters down ourselves. They do not deserve to touch our posters.”
The human chain planned for this Friday seems to be more about sending a message than actually protecting the signs.
So what is that message?
According to Salcido, it’s that they won’t stop protesting until they get everything on their list of demands.
“Until they answer and they listen,” Serena continued. “They need to fix the schools. They need to fix the system. They need to stop discriminating against other people because of their skin tones.”
One of the initial motivators of the movement at El Diamante seems to be the alleged inaction within the school district.
Protesters cited incidents when the District has overlooked incidents of racism on campus such as racial slurs and students donning confederate flags on their vehicles and clothes.
A month ago, students created a petition to remove El Diamante principal Jeff Hohne for alleged “racist, homophobic, sexist tendencies” during his time at the school. Students also claim Hohne demanded the signs outside El Diamante get taken down and flipped off protesters. The petition has over 5,000 signatures.
The local BLM movement has consistently demonstrated for over a month now. And it’s clear that youth feel strongly about the cause. Support has grown exponentially with every incident of community pushback.
Other local organizations have now gotten involved to show support like the Voices of Central Valley and Act for Women and Girls. Both groups have been known for being politically active and engaging the community for social justice.
Like many BLM protests across the nation, the goals of the local movement also seek abolishment of white supremacy, abolishment of the police, and calling out local leadership.
To meet the goals, the protesters intend to keep the momentum going and eventually take their demands to city council.
This week alone will see multiple demonstrations in Visalia:
- Tuesday, demand Tulare County Board of Supervisors charge suspects involved in the infamous Jeep incident on Mooney.
- Wednesday, Peaceful Kneel outside of the VUSD office.
- Friday, Human Chain at El Diamante
- Saturday, Anti-4th-of-July BBQ and Protest