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The Empire Strikes Back! Day 3 of Student Walkouts in Fresno

by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at]
Students continued to walk out of school in protest of HR 4437. On Wednesday the police and school administration changed their tactics and began detaining students.
The Empire Strikes Back! Day 3 of Student Walkouts in Fresno
By Mike Rhodes

Students continued to walkout of school and head for downtown Fresno today, in protest of HR 4437, the proposed immigration legislation in Congress. They have been marching to Fresno City Hall since Monday when over 500 students marched downtown and held a rally. On Tuesday the official police estimate of the crowd at City Hall was 2,000, with community activists estimating the crowd was as large as 6,000.

The Fresno Police Department (FPD) and school administrators changed tactics today and began detaining students. 200 students were detained and most of them were taken to the Ted Wills Community Center where they were held and released to their parents.

At a press conference called to discuss the detentions, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said they had used the Tactical Response Team, aerial surveillance, and targeted three Fresno High Schools to contain the walkout. Dyer said the FPD did not see the mass rallies today that had taken place on Monday and Tuesday. Instead, he said there were smaller groups of protestors marching around downtown Fresno. Part of the reason for the smaller numbers, he said, was because the police had positioning officers around the Roosevelt, McLane, and Fresno High Schools. At Noon, the police maintained a high profile around Fresno High. Motorcycles and squad cars were positioned about every 200 feet around the perimeter of the school. Dyer said the police presence made students think twice before jumping the fence.

On a positive note, Fresno Unified School District Assistant Superintendent John Marinovich, said at the Press Conference that the schools were using the walkouts as an opportunity to talk about democracy. He said “Social Science teachers are using this to talk about democracy, schools have set up Free Speech Areas so students can talk about immigration issues, voter registration materials are being made available to students who are over 18, and we are giving students the opportunity to call or write their representatives.”

Marinovich also talked about progressive discipline and how the detained students would be handled when they return to school. He said that discipline would be handled on a case by case basis. If this is the first time a student is truant he or she might receive a verbal warning. If this is not the first time, they could receive community service work or have to attend a class about the importance of attending school.

Even as the Press Conference was taking place, there were more reports of students arriving in downtown Fresno. Dyer said he had a report of 150 students who were on their way to Fresno from the South Valley. As I left the Press Conference there was a group of 30 - 40 students marching down the Mariposa Mall. They were from Bullard High.

The organizing of these walkouts seems to be coordinated by the students text messaging each other, using “My Space” on the Internet, and word of mouth at school. The next big walkout, march and rally will probably take place on Friday, March 31. Negotiations are under way to use the baseball stadium downtown. There are also discussions about coordinating with an already planned event that will take place at the Convention Center - this is an event honoring the life of Cesar Chavez and will include a march to Cesar Chavez High School.

To see the story and photos about the Monday walkout in Fresno, go to:

To see the story and photos of the Tuesday walkout in Fresno, go to:
§Bullard High School Students Walkout
by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at]
Groups of Junior High and High School students marched through downtown Fresno today. The Fresno Police Department reported there were 200 students detained today.
§Students Arrive at Detention Center
by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at]
All photos by Mike Rhodes
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