Students take to the streets in support of peace | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Students take to the streets in support of peace

by Jeff Munson, Tribune city editor

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneSouth Tahoe High School students gather at the "Y" to protest a possible war between the U.S. and Iraq.

Shouting “Books not bombs” and “No blood for oil,” hundreds of South Tahoe High School students staged a protest against a possible war with Iraq.

The noon-hour march on Friday, which occupied one lane of traffic from the campus on Viking Way to the “Y,” caught school administrators off guard, some believing the protest would not leave school grounds.

South Lake Tahoe police arrived as students, many of whom held signs, occupied the “Y” intersection, briefly stopping traffic.

“We are here to show our opposition to a war in Iraq,” said Crystal Plotner, a senior who organized the march with fellow seniors Erika Gonzalez and Joanna Parks.

Plotner and others handed out leaflets during lunch, asking students to march. The day before, the organizers made dozens of cardboard signs that said “No Blood for Oil” and “Justice Not War.”

Several Latino students chanted “No queremos Guerra, Queremos Paz” (“We don’t want war, we want peace”).

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Friday’s march was the largest organized protest on the South Shore since a rally was staged in October at Regan Beach.

Once word surfaced that students were marching off the campus, school officials followed them in vehicles and on foot to make sure the protest was orderly.

It is unclear whether teachers knew the march would be off campus, but Plotner said several teachers told her minutes beforehand that if they were going to protest, to be respectful of others.

Diane Scheerhorn, Lake Tahoe Unified School District superintendent, monitored students at the “Y” and asked them to stay off the busy intersection.

“It is a safety concern. We want to make sure no one gets hurt,” Scheerhorn said amid the chanting students. Police who monitored the protest said that no laws were broken.

Asked if she was against the march, Scheerhorn said she would have “preferred the students stayed on campus to state their point of view.”

She made it clear it was not organized by the school and administrators had no knowledge of the event until students began gathering.

Many motorists honked their horns in support of the students, but about the same number raised their fists, had their thumbs down or made obscene gestures.

“We’re getting a lot of support, but we’re also getting a lot of fingers from a lot of adults,” organizer Gonzalez said of the motorists. “Those that are pro-war can be pretty hateful. I wonder why?”

Police said the demonstration was orderly, but there were some complaints from motorists that some of the students were in the street.

“Once they were asked to stay off the street, they complied,” said police Sgt. Cameron Carmichael. “I think the people who were upset by this were the school administrators. But all in all, the kids behaved very well.”

“A lot of us are talking about this and we’re not really that interested in politics. We’re very concerned that Bush is doing the wrong thing and that he doesn’t have the support from the rest of the world,” said STHS student Chris Smith, who turns 18 next month. “I signed up with Selective Service already, because it is what I’m supposed to do. I don’t want to be drafted, but I know that’s a possibility.”

Jeff Munson can be reached at jmunson@tahoedailytribune.com

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