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Indybay Feature
Censorship of 911 Speech of San Rafael High School student; Roberto's story
by kaye (kaye at yak dot net)
Thursday Oct 3rd, 2002 5:37 PM
Roberto, a Latino-American freshman at San Rafael High school in Marin County, California, was not permitted to read his anti-war speech at the student assembly commemorating the anniversary of 911. He was threatened with expulsion for handing out copies to other students. Later his school club materials were confiscated. In spite of interventions by the Human Rights Commission, he continues to be harassed at school. The school cannot figure out that he has civil rights, nor that someone who writes like this is clearly not learning disabled.
On September 11, 2002, San Rafael High School in Marin County north of San Francisco scheduled an assembly for students to present talks to commemorate the anniversary. Roberto, a 14 year old freshman, prepared the following speech. The person in charge told him he could not present it, saying it was "too political" and "we are only here to honor Americans".

So Roberto passed out copies of his censored speech to the other students. The next day the principal called him into the office and said that if he passed out any more papers he would be thrown out of school. The vice principal said to him "You are only a special education student and you cannot change the world. You have to do things that you're capable of doing and this is way out of your capabilities."

Then on Tuesday September 24th the school had "club rush", where clubs set up tables to present their materials. Roberto had been approved and had a table set up in the back. Other students were enthusiastically gathered around his table and several dozens signed up. But at the end of lunch, the principals, with security guards, came and confiscated all the material: literature, signup sheets, and several students' backpacks. Roberto was called rude and defiant.

His cause has been taken up by the Marin Peace and Justice Coalition (415)721-2844 which has started a "futures" commmittee for youth issues. They called George Pegelow, a county human rights commissioner and ACLU member. They, along with Roberto and his father met with the school to remind them that "there is a constitution" in this country and that students are "citizens of the USA with free speech rights". The school defended their actions with arguments of "procedural problems".

It is expected that the school will back down, but Roberto's experiences illustrate several endemic problems in the school system: it is not only yet another case of censorship of high school student voices and diminished rights of persons under 18, but also - why is such an obviously literate and creative student being tracked into special education? (that's allegedly "learning disabled") Could this be an illustration of an institutionalized problem in one of the richest, whitest counties in the United States. How many other children of immigrants or African Americans are caught in this machine? Perhaps to a future in the military instead of the university. Who is steering this ship?

Roberto himself, with great confidence and style, is moving forward. He has been interviewed on KPFA radio's "La Onda Bajita" and "La Raza Chronicles". He has made several presentations in conjunction with the upcoming Mill Valley Film Festival and is working on a video for it.

Nada más de Sal si Puede pero - ¡Si se puede!
By the way, how are things in YOUR town?


Roberto's speech for 9/11/02: NOT IN MY NAME.

Who am I, who are you, why are we here today in this assembly.

Today is September 11th, we are Americans, yes I am American but I am sad - really sad to say that too often I feel ashamed to say that I am. I feel more like a victim of this country than a child of it - and I know that many of you feel the same. I think it is time we do things to be proud to be American.

Today as we remember the tragedy, the many lives that were lost one year ago on this day, let us think about how we can not only honor their lives, but how we can stop ourselves and the way we live from causing another September 11th from happening again anywhere in the world.

Right now, as we speak, our nation is preparing to go to war. War - hurt - pain - suffering - murder - unhappiness - hell on earth, in my name, your name? No!

Some of us here today may have lost a mother, a brother, an aunt, or a father last year - and even if you did not I am sure that you were shocked, terrified, or saddened by the pain, the death and the size of the destruction in New-York. But have you stopped to think about the shocking pain, the terrible deaths, and the sadness of the destruction that happened in Afghanistan? Have you stopped to think about the children in Afghanistan or in Iraq who have lost mothers, brothers, aunts or fathers because of retaliation by the United States?

Is this the way that we remember our loved ones - is this the way we honor the dead, by making life hell not only for others who are living but also for ourselves, by taking the lives of others and it comes back to us in violence that takes our lives. Isn't it time we end this destructive cycle.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind

Let us not be blind to the facts. We are in a war that is not meant to make this world a safer place to live, a world where people can live in peace with their neighbors without worrying about how to protect them self from them. In just one year hate-crimes have increased, there is not only unrest in the Middle East, Latin America, and China, but there is unrest in America. Is more war, more death, and more pain going to help - NO.

We are supporting a war for cheap oil, for Afghanistan's opium and for the heroin drug trade, messed up by the underhanded deals of the CIA.
And I say... not in my name.

We are being told that we must retaliate - we must find someone to blame, someone to kill, but I say... not in my name.

What does it really mean to be an American now, to display our stars and stripes - freedom, liberty, equality - really? Really - for whom, not even for me and certainly not for our fellow human beings in Iraq or Afghanistan. What the flag means right now is that I support the war, that I support death and pain, tears and suffering, cheap oil at any cost to human lives, and hate crimes. It means that I support a war that is based on economics.That is not what I want my flag to represent, can I please be proud to be American, can we please... STOP - because all of this is NOT IN MY NAME...AND Not in your name either.

I want to be proud to say that I am American - and I know you do too, so think about it and let's do what we can do to change what it means to be American. So that one day, people all around the world can honestly say that we are not only proud to be born in USA but we are also proud to be a citizen of the world, human beings, a part of this awesome thing called life.

Thank you... Good Morning MY FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS.

Add Your Comments

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by being
Thursday Oct 3rd, 2002 8:42 PM
I appreciate your strength and the courage you have to write the truth.
by progressive
Thursday Oct 3rd, 2002 8:53 PM
Deserves a one-way ticket to the Islamic Paradise of his choice.

America...don't like it? get the fuck
by Sheepdog
Thursday Oct 3rd, 2002 9:08 PM
Someone the ruling class hates and will
harass because he represents what they fear
a freemind. We need more of these brave
young souls.
by Left_Is_Right
Thursday Oct 3rd, 2002 10:01 PM
This here's a REAL american you selfish, xenophobic right wing bastards. The kid rocks!!!
by Lad
Thursday Oct 3rd, 2002 11:00 PM
Dude needs to visit singapore for a little reality lesson.

Not that I don't identify with him, but we all face reality
sooner or later.

correct me if I'm wrong....

don't bother.
by Sheepdog
Thursday Oct 3rd, 2002 11:21 PM
Snipers again?
Let me reiterate.
This young man has more guts than most of
these tattered flag waving morons who can only
throw garbage, after the evening "news", of
Roberto, I hope my many sons turn out as strong.
by Clay Pigeon
Friday Oct 4th, 2002 9:21 AM
His analysis is vapid and naive, but he still has the protected right to speech. He has proposed no violence. The rantings of an obviously angered young boy adds to the tapestry of opinion, no matter how contrived and fallcious it is.
by Sheepdog
Friday Oct 4th, 2002 9:29 AM
well Mr. Critic, a 14 year old seems to be far less
vapid and naive than the entire press core; gutless
by Carol Brouillet
Friday Oct 4th, 2002 3:42 PM
Great Article!

This is important information and that is why it is being suppressed, ignored, whenever possible. We held a press conference on a People's Investigation of 9-11 at the Federal Building today- and not surprizingly, not a single mainstream journalist turned up. We must be the media!

by John Walker Lindh
Friday Oct 4th, 2002 7:57 PM
October 4, 2002

United States District Court, Eastern District of Virginia

Alexandria, VA


To begin, I would like to thank God who has protected and sustained me. I would also like to thank the Court for giving me this opportunity to accept full responsibility for violating the U.S. sanctions on Afghanistan last year, to express my remorse for what's happened, and to express my gratitude to my family and those who have supported me. I would also like to explain how and why I went to Afghanistan as a soldier with the Taliban in its conflict with the Northern Alliance.

First, I want to express my deepest gratitude to my family for their unfaltering love and support. I know they have experienced a tremendous amount of pain throughout this past year and for that I am sorry.

I would also like to say that I am very grateful to my attorneys whose support of me never wavered, to those who treated my wounds on the USS PELELIU, and to those who helped bring me home. I also want to express my appreciation to the many Americans who have supported me and my family through letters, emails and editorials. I understand why so many Americans were angry when I was first discovered in Afghanistan. I realize that many still are but I hope that with time and understanding, those feelings will change.

I would like to take some time to explain how I ended up in Afghanistan.

Prior to May of last year, I was a student of Islam at a school in Pakistan, having previously studied the Arabic language in Yemen. In June, after receiving three weeks of military training in Northern Pakistan, I traveled to Afghanistan in order to assist the Taliban government in opposing the warlords of the Northern Alliance. After being required to take additional military training at a facility in Afghanistan, I volunteered as a foot soldier on the front lines in the province of Takhar, in northeastern Afghanistan. I arrived there on September 6, 2001.

I went to Afghanistan because I believed it was my religious duty to assist my fellow Muslims militarily in their jihad against the Northern Alliance. Because the term "jihad" has been commonly misunderstood, I'd like to take a few minutes to explain the meaning of the term. In the Arabic language, jihad literally means 'struggle.' In Islamic terminology, jihad refers to the spending of one's utmost exertion in the service of God.

I have never understood jihad to mean anti-Americanism or terrorism. I condemn terrorism on every level--unequivocally. My beliefs about jihad are those of mainstream Muslims around the world. I believe that jihad ranges from striving to overcome own personal faults, to speaking out for the truth in adverse circumstances, to military action in the defense of justice. The type of jihad one practices depends upon one's circumstances, but the essence of any form of jihad lies in the intent.

Last year, I felt that I had an obligation to assist what I perceived to be an Islamic liberation movement against the warlords who were occupying several provinces in Northern Afghanistan. I had learned from books, articles and individuals with first-hand experience of numerous atrocities committed by the Northern Alliance against civilians. I had heard reports of massacres, child rape, torture and castration. I also knew that many of these warlords had fought alongside the Soviet Union in the 1980's during the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. I went to Afghanistan because I believed there was no way to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people aside from military action. I did not go to fight against America, and I never did.

I saw the war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance as a continuation of the war between the mujahideen and the Soviets. I knew that the mujahideen had been supported by the United States. In addition, I knew that the Northern Alliance continued to be funded and armed by the Russian government throughout the 1990's and up until last year.

My experience of living in Afghanistan was limited to military life as a trainee and as a soldier. In retrospect, I had no real exposure to the life of civilians under the rule of the Taliban. Since returning to the United States, I have learned more about the Taliban, such as reports of the Taliban's repression of women, which I did not see or hear of while I was in Afghanistan, and which I believe is strongly condemned by Islam.

I have also become aware of the relationship between the leaders of the Taliban and Usama bin Laden's organization. Bin Laden's terrorist attacks are completely against Islam, completely contrary to the conventions of jihad and without any justification whatsoever. His grievances, whatever they may be, cannot be addressed by acts of injustice and violence against innocent people in America. Terrorism is never justified and has proved extremely damaging to Muslims around the world. I have never supported terrorism in any form and never would.

I went to Afghanistan with the intention of fighting against terrorism and oppression, not to support it.

Although I thought I knew a good deal about the Taliban when I went to the front line, it's clear to me now that there were many things of which I was not aware. I made a mistake by joining the Taliban. I want the Court to know, and I want the American people to know that had I realized then what I know now about the Taliban, I would never have joined them.

When I began my studies in Islam, I had the ambition of one day teaching, writing, and translating Arabic texts into English. I still have these ambitions and hope to pursue my studies in Islam, the Arabic language, World History, Linguistics, Sociology and English Literature. I hope to use this knowledge to serve Islam and the interests of Muslims in America and around the world to the full extent of my capability.

To conclude, I would like to again thank the Court for giving me this opportunity to speak.
by Kirjava24
Sunday Mar 30th, 2003 4:06 PM
Hey all! I attend SRHS along with Roberto and was shocked and apalled at the administration's response to his speech. The California Education Code guarentees students rights to free speech and their right to distribute materials unless the said materials are "obscene." The materials that were handed out at Club Rush were not obscene in any way; our administration has a history of censoring what it does not feel comfortable with and apparently they are not comfortable with political activism. All of the steps that the administration took were out of line and illegal and hopefully Roberto will be able redistibute his speech next year. On a positive note, the Peace and Justice club was able to bring a speaker to address the war on Iraq a few weeks ago.
At the same time, I took offense to part of the article: the author makes a comment about how Marin is one of the "whitest" counties in California. Roberto was not censored because of his race, but because of his message. I can't say any good about our administration, but I will give them this: they are not racist. San Rafael High School is the most diverse school in Marin; some 65% of the student population is either Latino or Asian and the last thing that the administration does is discriminate based on race. The school discriminates based on age (if you are a student, you are wrong) and ideas (If you are not a straight laced conservative, you are wrong) not on race. Please, if San Rafael discriminates, I don't want to see what the rest of the high schools in Marin are like.
Respectfully submitted
by Denise D. Sanchez (denisesanchez [at]
Sunday Apr 6th, 2003 3:04 PM
Greetings. My name is Denise D. Sanchez. I graduated from San Rafael High School in 1999. I too am Latina-American and I am also a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps.

This is my message to Roberto: I think it was brave of you to presue your platform even after you were told that you were not allowed to read your speech at a school assembly. I do however think that you chose an inapproiate time to request to read your speech. The mission of the school-sponsored assembly was to remember those whose lives were taken on 11 September 2001. It was not a platform for political ideals.

When I signed up for the Marine Corps, I swore to defend my country and the rights of it's citizans. One of these rights is the freedom of speech. It makes me proud to know that what I do helps to protect you, other Americans and the freedoms you enjoy.
I do think it is very important to support our American troops who are working for all of us. They leave home so that you can sleep in a warm bed. They miss holidays with their families so that you can live safely in your homes. They miss the births of their children so that our children can be safe on the way to school. They sleep in the dirt during missions and special operations so that even homeless people in the United States can have a better life than entire populations of other countries.

This is by no means a perfect country, but is it the best one in the entire world and I love it. My brothers and sisters are in Iraq giving their lives even as you read this. We ARE there in the names of the Americans we lost and to prevent it from happening again. Something needs to be done and the United States is doing it.

Denise D. Sanchez
by krazie-k (k_dogg69_kat [at]
Wednesday Apr 9th, 2003 3:54 PM
i don't know why this vice principal says he is a special education student, because this is coming from an intelligent mind and very talented writer.
by SRHS Senior
Sunday May 18th, 2003 4:13 PM
As a student of SRHS, I think that Alberto Is a a stupid ignorant bastard. His speech was denied as the assembly because it was meant to honor the people that had died on 9-11 and not a chance to voice your opinions on war. As far as club Rush, I am a member of the student council and we have procedures to follow. Before posters are hung up or flyers are distributed a student must have them approved. Alberto never had his materials approved and that is why the administration took them away. The administration would have allowed it if he would have gone through the process. I am disappointed that this fellow student is trying to blame the school for something that was clearly his fault.!!!!!!!!!!!!!
by SRHS alum, class of '02
Tuesday May 27th, 2003 12:32 PM
I'm a recent graduate of SRHS (class of '02) and several of my friends still attend the school. Somehow, I'm not surprised by any of this. When I was there, there was very little student support (and even less administrative support) of airing actual opinions - or at least anything more controversial than your typical high school history textbook. Whether or not we agree with Alberto's statement is an irrelevant point.

The spirit at SRHS has died. When I was a freshman, much of the student body walked out in protest to the principal closing the campus for lunch. Now, a much more serious offense has been committed by the administration, and this time (much to my surprise) the students are saying that Alberto deserved what he got because he didn't follow the rules. (God forbid that the SCHOOL should follow the rules, right?)

Alberto reminds me a lot of myself - trying to get my voice heard despite the suppression I experienced there. Any student who thinks that this situation doesn't constrict their rights to speak freely has been locked into the system so well that they've been blinded. Whatever happened to treating others as we wish to be treated? If you want to voice your opinions about whether or not Alberto should be punished, you should consider that perhaps Alberto should have been permitted to give his speech on 9/11/02.

(On a side note, somehow it doesn't surprise me that the principal did this...)
by Brian
Tuesday May 27th, 2003 3:46 PM
Don't you think it ironic that in the U.S., where we are told we are the freest people on earth, we really don't have freedom of speech? Isn't it great that 9 people in long ,flowing,black robes can make sweeping decisions on your rights! They can decide when you can yell fire, or when life begins. It is a real blessing that we in America have allowed this to happen. Oh, and by the way, it is the Constitution that actually makes us free.
by Joy (ilovemykids [at]
Wednesday Jun 4th, 2003 9:29 AM
Roberto, You are excellent. You are featured on our new web site, Fuck Censorship.
We are fed up with words being banned by the killers that make bombs and landmines.
Hey soldier lady, there are eighty million landmines in the world already. Is that keeping us all nice and free?
You are blind to the truths Roberto and I and many others are telling. That won't make us go away,
we will only work harder to save this country from the flag waving morons who watch TV and believe what they are told.
We love you. Come by for uncensored truths and participate in the public outcry. We need you now.
Organize, Organize, Organize.
by anti-kirjava24 (ggggg)
Saturday Oct 4th, 2003 2:17 AM
Even the most conservitave school in the most liberal area is liberal. And minors and dont have many rights to begin with.
by SRHS Jr.
Wednesday Oct 29th, 2003 8:08 AM
I remember my sophmor year of High School when I met Roberto and I remeber thinking he was so wise for his age. I remember being at the exact assembly this article is talking about and he held up a sign saying no war on Iraq. I was also there when security took peoples back packs and tore down his club sign up area, my friends and I were shocked. I was a good friend of Roberto and I couldnt believe the kind of things that our school was puting him through. His beliefs were not just his but those of other students as well. Roberto is NOT mentally challenged in any way shape or form. The school is just too afriad of the type of confidence he had in himself. He never did anything to harm the school or make them look bad, they did that them selves when they began taking away his constitional rights! So as a Friend of Roberto I wana say thanks and keep up the good work...and Robert never stop trying....thanks buddy.
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