The Battle at Belmont High—Bush Must Go! Geovany Must Stay!
In the run-up to November 2nd, a day that will go down
in history as the Beginning of the End of the Bush Regime, Belmont High School
student Geovany Serrano took up the call from The World Can’t Wait! Drive
Out the Bush Regime! in a big way. His fellow students have since attested
to the vital leading role he played in organizing students for the N2 walkouts.
One student said that, thanks to Geovany’s bold efforts, she observed
a surprising and uplifting scene at nutrition one day. During the break,
everywhere she looked, all the students were reading the flyer and getting
into it. This was truly an inspiring sight—students learning about the world
and taking up the battle to change the course of history.
The Authorities Move to Stop the Movement
On November 1st, school officials decided to do something
about this “problem”—namely, a flowering of critical thought and resistance
to the Bush program. The campus police viciously attacked Geovany for distributing
WCW flyers and stickers, taking him down and dousing his head with pepper
spray. One student said that, as a number of police had converged on the
scene very quickly, the police moved immediately to clear out any potential
witnesses from the “rotunda” on campus where this grim scene of police brutality
went down. A teacher at Belmont said that the main officer involved is known
to be “pushy” with the students.
Here I’ll just add that these cops are from the Ramparts Division—and
anybody who knows anything about brazen police brutality and fabrication
of police reports knows that Ramparts is at the head of the class. Should
we “take their word” on what happened there, as the school authorities so
unquestioningly—and, frankly, vengefully—have? HELL NO! We intend to defeat
the bogus, and quite serious, criminal charges the police have put on him!
We won’t let them flip reality on its head, painting Geovany as a criminal,
when the real criminals in the world, those comprising the Bush Regime, are
moving this society each day closer to a hateful, Christian fundamentalist
theocracy that wages unending war and commits unspeakable atrocities against
the people of the world!
Beyond the criminal charges being pressed against Geo, the school
suspended him for at least 2 days and threatened him with expulsion or an
“Opportunity Transfer (OT)” where he’d be sent to another school within the
LA Unified School District (LAUSD).
The Students Stay Strong in the Face of Repression
Despite their efforts to crush this burgeoning student movement,
dozens of determined students from Belmont High took part in the November
2nd walkouts and marched to the Alvarado & Wilshire (McArthur
Park) convergence and rally point! One student excitedly reported that a
supportive teacher said that almost all of his classes were empty throughout
As the festivities were getting underway at McArthur Park (where
hundreds of brave students from all across LA celebrated, listening to music
and speeches), Geovany and his mother came by in a police car, returning
home from the juvenile detention facility where he’d been booked. He was
made to wear an electronic monitoring anklet and his home telephone was rigged
with an electronic surveillance box that squaks “hang up the phone” when
Geovany’s been on the phone for any period of time. (As an aside, his mom
is so repulsed—and scared—by this phone box that she keeps it hidden in a
drawer and out of sight!)
He was able to see the protests underway as he went by and he raised
a fist in salute to the courageous students in the park. He discovered when
he got home that he was able to see the action in the park from his building
and he took great heart in this inspiring sight and wished he could be out
Further Reprisals Against the Students
When students returned to Belmont High on November 3rd,
those who had participated in the walkout were called to the office to get
a re-admit slip to their classes. When they got there, police officers were
waiting and wrote them truancy tickets! Here we can see the sickening way
in which the school officials and police work hand-in-glove to criminalize
and punish these students.
On Friday, Nov. 4th Geo had a juvenile court hearing
to set a pre-plea court date and to officially tell him what charges are
being pressed against him. He was also assigned a public defender. He was
hit with heavy charges and he was given a pre-plea court date of December
14th, 2005. His public defender requested that he be taken off
house arrest in the meantime, citing his exemplary status as a student with
terrific grades and impeccable attendance and the fact that this was his
first contact with law enforcement, but he was denied.
The Fight for the Future Rages On
On Monday, Nov. 7th the Assistant Principal called for
a meeting with Geovany and his mother to discuss the punitive measures that
the school would be taking against him. The local World Can’t Wait! youth
and student committee mobilized to rally students and others to take up Geo’s
defense and demand that he not be punished for building a student movement
to Drive Out the Bush Regime. Some of the students had heard about his situation
and others were just learning for the first time, but all were totally outraged!
By this time, another lawyer had stepped forward to fight on Geo’s
side and one of his former teachers came to speak on his behalf. Additionally,
several of the students we spoke to outside of the school left their classes
and came to the principal’s office to voice their support. They said that
what the school authorities and police are doing to Geo and accusing him
of is complete bullshit. In the meeting, the assistant principal and campus
security and police had a hard time getting their story together. One thing
that marked the whole proceedings, from their standpoint, was the automatic
assumption of Geo’s guilt.
They put forward as the unquestionable truth that Geo had initiated
this whole incident, but later admitted that the officers physically detained
Geo, themselves initiating the contact. They claimed that they thought Geo
might not have been a student and thus went after him. But what they didn’t
speak to—and what has become clear in this and other cases around LAUSD,
and the country—is that this was a blatant attempt to silence the political
(constitutionally protected) free speech rights of students. Another student
reported that he and his friends admired Geo’s boldness in fighting for this
cause because they had been threatened by the campus police for wearing the
Resist or Die! stickers. But Geo would not let them intimidate him from doing
what he knew was right!
The school officials refused to budge from their position and insisted
that an Opportunity Transfer be imposed on Geo. Despite the climate of persecution
he faced at Belmont, Geo wants to continue going to school there. And we
are determined that this OT be overturned! (Oh, here’s an additional outrage:
during the meeting, the school officials actually claimed that the officer
who assaulted Geo was “fearful” of Geo’s return, and therefore, Geo has to
go! How about shipping out the brutal police who beat up and pepper spray
the students—not their victims?!
The Students Strike Back
On Tuesday, Nov. 8th a crew of World Can’t Wait youth
& student organizers went out to Belmont High at 7:00am. By this time,
the word about Geo had spread pretty far and we put out the slogan: “Bush
Must Go! Geovany Must Stay!” We took a bullhorn, WCW posters, leaflets and
stickers and we pulled together a mass of about 30 students on the spot out
in front of the main entrance to the school who were defiantly chanting this
slogan. School security and officials soon emerged, yelling at the growing
mass of student resisters, “Don’t let them use you!” and telling some of
us organizers that “These students don’t know anything about what’s going
on in the world!”
One of the school deans came out with a video camera and was intimidating
the students with penalties, saying “we know who you are.” The students were
anything but deterred! The first bell rang at 7:36am and by this time there
were 40 or so students who decided that this was more important than going
to class. After a while some LAPD showed up and tried to tell us that we
were disrupting classes and that they would have to arrest us if we continued.
We said, “good, the classes should be disrupted since the Bush Regime is
disrupting the future of the planet and its inhabitants.” Overhead, students
poked their heads and fists out of classroom windows to show their solidarity
with the protest.
We continued to rally in front of the school for a while longer
and then we began marching around the campus grounds, calling on students
to, “Join Us! Join Us!” and “Outta your class and into the streets! The World
Can’t Wait!” and, of course “Bush Must Go! Geovany Must Stay!” continued
to set the tone for the day. On a couple of occasions, as we marched around
the campus, students ran to the gates that held them in and scaled them to
join us. Everybody cheered triumphantly!
It just so happened that one of the local ACLU offices is located
in close proximity to Belmont, so we polled students to see if they wanted
to march over there. We explained that the ACLU had yet to take up the defense
of the students who walked out on Nov. 2nd and that we wanted
to go make as compelling a case as possible for them to take this up urgently—and
what better way to do it than for the students themselves to march to the
offices and demand their assistance?!! The students were all for it!
When we got to the ACLU they said that they were “too busy” to take
this up and instead referred us to some other lawyers! It turned out that
one of the students is a card-carrying member of the ACLU and he (among others)
was outraged at their response. (Since then, he’s received a call from someone
at the ACLU who is interested in learning more about Geo’s case, based on
a written report he submitted that day at the office.) We left the office
a little disappointed, but still determined to keep marching.
From there, we did another route around the campus and more students
came to join us. There was even an off-track teacher from Belmont who hooked
up with us. He also had connections at the local Pacifica station and got
some of the students on the air for the midday news. We wanted to get the
word out more broadly, so we decided to march downtown to the Business Magnet
High School there. This was another school where N2 walkouts had taken place.
When we got there, escorted by legions of police cruisers along
the way, the school had been sealed off and all we could see was a handful
of school officials who had come outside to smirk at us. We chanted as loud
as we could, but the students either couldn’t hear us or were being kept
from joining us. We got lots of love from the passing cars, pumping fists
and honking horns, and many people hurriedly passed donations out their windows
when we took donation cans to them.
Finally, we decided to march back to Belmont. Students were clearly
being kept from exiting the school grounds by lockdown and by police intimidation.
One aide from the campus, who also volunteers with the local Pacifica station
was arrested by the LAPD because he had been going in and out of the school
to talk to students. He had joined the march earlier and got taken by the
police when he strayed from the crowd. The students took the street and surrounded
the car, chanting “Let him go! Let him go!” but it was too late.
Before we finished, we asked students what they thought the next
step should be. Some thought there should be a campus group that takes this
up and others said that they wanted to do this every day until Geo’s let
back onto campus. We decided to break up and head out for the day. Students
agreed that not returning to school for the rest of the day was the best
idea. So we all walked down to a nearby major intersection and made sure
that everyone had friends to walk with. Then everyone went their separate
ways. We later learned that a group of the students went to a local restaurant
to eat lunch and were swarmed with police who came screeching up in their
cars and stormed the restaurant. The students were handcuffed and taken back
to school, where they were ticketed!
The Struggle Continues
In the wake of the big day of protest on Tuesday, Geo received a
letter from the Assistant Principal stating that he is entitled to an appeals
process for the OT, but that the Assistant Principal would not hear it. Instead,
he referred him to a LAUSD board member. We will be taking up this battle,
to get Geo fully reinstated at Belmont. In the meantime, beginning on Wednesday,
Geo started taking classes at Marshall High (another school where students
walked out on the 2nd!). On his first day there, the principal
told him that, “you won’t be passing out any flyers here.”(!!!) On Thursday,
he wasn’t allowed into school there because he brought a water bill, and
not a gas bill, as proof of residence.
We returned to Belmont on Wednesday and Thursday and found that
the school had been converted into a full-fledged prison. There were anywhere
between 6 and 10 police cruisers parked directly in front of the school and
another 3 or 4 actively patrolling the periphery. They stepped up their threats
against both the organizers and the students. There were many students who
wanted to walk out, but were thwarted at every turn. Organizers were threatened
with tickets for “loitering” and told (LIES) that they weren’t allowed to
pass out leaflets to the students.
On Thursday, one of the WCW organizers was arrested when they were
IDed and found to have a minor warrant. This is complete bullshit because
the police had no right to stop them in the first place! When they ran the
ID checks on the organizers, they told them that they’re “not allowed to
pass out pornography to the students”! The police dragged this whole process
out as long as they could to keep the organizers from interacting with the
students. After they arrested and hauled off one organizer, they told another
that they had to leave and that if they were seen around the campus again,
they would be arrested on-sight!
The students are beside themselves about this whole situation and
determined to take this struggle to a whole other level. Everyone reading
this should be outraged, too! Call the school officials listed below (and
also contacts in the media, the academic and legal communities and beyond)
and make the following demands:
BUSH MUST GO!
GEOVANY MUST STAY!
NO REPRISALS AGAINST THE STUDENTS!
DROP GEOVANY’S BOGUS CRIMINAL CHARGES!
Call School Principal Gary Yoshinobu at: PHONE - (213) 250-0244, FAX - (213) 250-9706 or email: email@example.com