Highland Rambler

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Highland Rambler

Highland Rambler

First Amendment Alive and Well at Highland

Highland students express their support for Palestine through a walkout and protest
Hannah Pace
Students march along 17th East with signs expressing their sympathies.

In front of Highland on the morning of Thursday, Nov. 9, students who support a free Palestine rallied together. 

Chants of “Palestine will be free! From the rivers to the sea!” could be heard as the group of 40-50 students walked along 17th South and then through Sugarhouse Park with signs expressing their feelings and support for Palestinians embroiled in the war between Israel and Hamas.  

After walking out of their second period class, a group quickly formed of students passionate about the cause, which was accompanied by police officers, news reporters, and members of the Highland administration. 

At Highland, walkouts are common. And even though “walkouts” disrupt a class period, the ability and freedom students have to express their opinions is one of Highland’s best qualities. 

Natalie Villa, a Highland sophomore, and several of her friends were the organizers and publicists of the walkout designed to support standing with Palestine.  The group created Instagram posts and posters informing students when to leave their classrooms and where to meet for the walkout to begin.  

Villa was extremely passionate about the issue because of her difficulty with the fact Palestinian teenagers were experiencing a completely different life from her in the United States, even though the two didn’t have many differences other than where they were born and raised.  

“I’ve seen the videos of what’s going on [in Palestine] and it’s hard because it’s kids our age who have dreams the same as us, so I don’t find it fair that they’re going through this and everyone else keeps turning a blind eye to it,” Villa said.  

Villa decided to change that and make it known that United States high schoolers see the struggles Palestinians are going through, which was what sparked her idea of a walkout.  

“I hope Palestinians know there’s a lot of us who hear them, see them, and stand with them,” Villa said.  

However, Villa noticed her walkout posters in the trash and rumors of the walkout being shut down, as well as students coming to her and expressing their disapproval of the walkout.  

Disappointed and disturbed, Villa still worked towards making the walkout happen, believing that there are two sides to every story and that the Palestinian side needed attention.  

“We’re supposed to be world leaders in the future,” Villa said. “And if we have opinions like this where we can’t even be openminded to both sides, because that’s how I went into this — openminded to both sides.” 

When Thursday came, Villa and roughly 50 other students left their classrooms at 11:00 AM to show their support for Palestine.  

Despite worries of there being an escalation with the walkout, the protest was executed in a respectful manner. Students marched around the block and through the park chanting with administration and a police presence following nearby. 

Highland principal Jeremy Chatterton walked alongside the protesters, making sure everyone was being respectful, but also assuring no community members were getting involved with the students.  

“Everyone for the most part was very respectful and followed the expectations for a walkout,” Chatterton said.  

For the protesters, they began chanting together, expressing their beliefs regarding the conflict in the Middle East.  

Many teenagers agreed that their action of walking out was their way of showing to Palestine that they stood with them and cared about what was happening to them.  

“I think it’s important to see that students care about everything that’s going on and that it’s impacting so many people,” senior Adrianna Morgan-Mace said.  

Even though a walkout at a school in Utah may look like it won’t change anything in the Middle East, it does prove that those in the Middle East aren’t alone: they have supporters all throughout the world.  

For Villa, she was nervous prior to the walkout, especially with the severity and sensitivity of the issue. With police present, faculty members outside the school, and reports from different broadcasting stations trying to interview her, she had a lot to manage while in front of the school.  

“Honestly, I was super nervous about it, but I’m happy a lot of people showed up and showed their solidarity with Palestine,” Villa said. “I hope the news recognition we got reaches Palestine in some type of way, and shows them that we hear them, see them, and are there for them, and that even though we’re just kids, we’re going to do as much as we can to call for the cease-fire and liberation of them.” 

Some worries around the walkout were that it only showed support for Palestinians and disregarded Israelis, but for most of the students there, they saw the issue with much more complexity than standing with one single side and disregarding the other. 

“I think it’s much more complicated than someone’s on the good side and someone’s on the bad side,” Morgan-Mace said. 

Senior Niels Madsen agrees that there is not one clear side that is right or wrong, but that walkouts like this are a way to learn more. Highland benefits their students by promoting and allowing political protests to occur at school.  

“I want to hear more people’s opinions about this issue and inform my own beliefs based on other’s perspectives,” Madsen said.  

With police and administration present, students had adults around in case of any disturbances or disruptions with their walkout. They were not needed, but Chatterton believes that student safety is the highest priority. 

“We wanted to make sure others in the community aren’t coming and giving our kids a hard time,” Chatterton said. “So [the administration being there] this is also a way to protect the kids from outside community if people start to approach them negatively.” 

With the conflict between Israel and Palestine ongoing, it’s suspected that there will be more Highland protests and walkouts in support of either of the two countries. Chatterton’s goal is to make sure all students feel safe. 

“The hard part about this is it’s such a sensitive topic for so many of our students, and there tends to be a lot of violence around this topic, so our concern is really that we want students to be safe,” Chatterton said.  

Whether students are strongly in support of Palestine or strongly in support of Israel, the school is creating an environment where both can express their feelings reverently and safely, like in forms of peaceful walkouts.  

“We’re very hyper-focused on making sure that all students are feeling safe and comfortable in the building on both sides,” Chatterton said.  

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