HARRISONBURG — About 80 Harrisonburg High School students marched three miles in the rain to downtown Monday afternoon chanting “build love, not hate.”
The march came less than a week after Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. His election has sparked protests, sometimes turning violent, across the country. Anti-Trump rallies have been held in more than a dozen major cities from New York to Los Angeles.
During his campaign, Trump faced criticism for comments about Mexicans and Muslims, among other groups. Critics have said his inflammatory rhetoric has emboldened hate groups.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said last year, saying many immigrants coming to the U.S. are criminals and rapists. He called for mass deportation of all undocumented immigrants, the construction of a wall along the Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out and a halt to Muslim refugees from entering the country.
HHS sophomore Marissa Plummer marched to support her classmates, saying that her friends are being harassed by random strangers about their ethnicity and religion.
“I’m a white female. … I’m privileged. I don’t know what they face,” the 15-year-old said. “My friends that go through this every day need to know they’re loved.”
Some high schools in other parts of the country staged walkouts in protest of Trump’s election. HHS students waited until the school day ended before heading to the streets.
The students, with an escort from the Harrisonburg Police Department, marched along Garbers Church Road at about 3 p.m. to West Market Street to Court Square.
There, they joined about two dozen community members.
Zach Benevento, Harrisonburg High’s student body president, called for the crowd to stand up to racism.
“This isn’t about the loss of an election,” said the 17-year-old senior. “It’s about sharing our voice. How do we have a country that’s so racist? Our school is diverse. We show unity.”
Karina Vazquez, a 16-year-old junior, was among five organizers of the march.
She said people should see people. She said the students are hearing stories of racist comments being made to minorities throughout the country, claiming they will be deported because of their race or religion.
“The only race that exists is the human race,” she said. “[People] are afraid of what will happen. They’re scared of racist comments … of being deported. We’re here coming together as a community.”
Several parents also joined in the protest.
Anaid Cordova, 33, marched with her daughter, Lizet Muniz, a 16-year-old junior.
“This is a great cause,” Cordova said. “It’s about cultural diversity, acceptance, loving our neighbors. Let’s be better neighbors and embrace everyone.”
Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6267 or email@example.com