Over 80 students in Oakland protesting Donald Trump's election stormed a press conference with Mayor Libby Schaaf on Thursday in the city's downtown.
The young protesters, many of them from immigrant families, hadn't planned to meet Schaaf when they walked out of Arise High School in the Fruitvale neighborhood earlier that day. But their march coincided with an event at Latham Square by city leaders. After a brief and tense exchange with the mayor, the students decided to stand behind Schaaf to face TV cameras, while some waved large Mexican flags and held signs reading "Dump Trump."
Jesus, 16, carried an image of Trump as "el diablito," or little devil. He worried about the President-elect's remarks connecting Mexican immigrants with 'criminals' and 'rapists,' and his boasts of groping and kissing women without their consent in an infamous video.
"I just feel disappointed with America because it’s supposed to be a country based on liberty and opportunity," said Jesus, who is a sophomore. "They said racism doesn’t exist, sexism doesn’t exist, but after the election America discovered itself -- who it really is, because they voted for him."
Emotions flared when Schaaf, just arriving at the scene, pleaded with students to lower their chants of "Black and Brown" and "Not my President" so she could start her planned remarks. Students shot back their unhappiness with gentrification and other local issues, but eventually quieted enough for Schaaf and other members of the city council to speak.
"There are many reasons for these young people to be angry right now. America and even Oakland is not working well for everyone. And I hope that this election is an opportunity for us to redouble our commitment to equity, to justice," said Schaaf.
Schaaf urged people who disagree with Trump's election to not resort to violence. Most of the 7,000 protesters at an anti-Trump rally on Wednesday night acted peacefully, said Shaaf. But the protest turned violent and resulted in 30 arrests and three injured police officers. Some businesses in the downtown and Chinatown areas were left with smashed windows and graffiti-covered walls.
"This is a hard moment for Oakland, it’s a hard moment for people across America. I am hoping that people will channel that energy into coming together, but coming together to not just be mad but to get involved," said Schaaf.
To many of the students marching, Trump's pledge of deporting millions of undocumented immigrants hits home, said Gisella Ramirez, a teacher at Arise High School.
"Some of our students have undocumented parents and they feel worried," said Ramirez. "They needed to put their anger somewhere, especially because they can't vote yet, so they decided to walk out."
Councilman Abel Guillen agreed the presidential election has created "a lot" of anxiety and fear among immigrant communities in Oakland. He is planning to convene town hall forums in the coming days.
"We want to provide resources to people and figure out what they can do to protect themselves and protect their communities," he said. "My message to young people and to Oaklanders is we are going to keep you safe. We want you here and we want you to do the right thing. We want you to rally and take care of one another."
As the teens walked for about two hours in the morning to reach downtown, people waved from storefronts, while drivers -- including police and a paramedic unit -- honked in support. A passerby ran to donate money so the students could buy bottled water for the trip, said Ramirez.