The sign that reads “Silence is acceptance” in the front window of the School Without Walls says it all for Neah Evering.
He joined 350 of his classmates Tuesday from the Foggy Bottom high school to march to the White House in protest of the contentious killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
“That sign epitomizes everything we do. We have a voice,” said Evering, a 12th-grade student who helped organize the demonstration. “The march was emotional and powerful. It felt really good.”
Evering said the Feb. 26 shooting of the Sanford, Fla. teen galvanized students at the 450-student public high school after government classes and African culture clubs discussed the killing.
Five seniors sparked a letter-writing campaign and coordinated the protest. Bernard Demczuk, GW’s assistant vice president for D.C. government relations and an African American history teacher at the high school, helped to secure Metropolitan Police Department permits to demonstrate.
“We’ve discussed a lot about oppression in school,” 10th-grade student Samantha Kolawale said. “But it’s not just the black community that’s upset. It’s everyone. It’s about justice, not about race.”
Martin, who was black, was killed last month by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who said he shot the 17-year-old out of self defense. Police did not arrest Zimmerman, 28, because of the state’s Stand Your Ground law.
The shooting has drawn demonstrations across the country, and was lifted further into the spotlight when President Barack Obama discussed Friday how the situation has affected him personally.
At the high school, students in classes and small assemblies listened to the 9-1-1 tapes of police officials advising Zimmerman to not pursue Martin, which 10th-grade student Anna Tsai said helped students learn more.
“The way they investigated it was perverse. Allowing this man to hide behind this is wrong,” Tsai said. “Everyone in school is on board.”
Edward Ismail, an A.P. Literature teacher who helped students organize the rally, said the march would help combat people’s perception that the school is cut off from other D.C. public schools because of its location on GW’s campus.
“There’s always this feeling that we’re not completely connected. By spearheading this youth movement, it shows we’re at one with the youth of the District,” Ismail said.