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San Ramon Students Keep Peace, Thank Police at Anti-Trump Protest

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    San Ramon Students Keep Peace, Thank Police at Anti-Trump Protest
    Gillian Edevane
    Protesters in San Ramon fight back against hate rhetoric, President-Elect Donald Trump.

    Mirroring protests across the country, San Ramon students took to the streets on Thursday in a demonstration against racism, hatred and President-Elect Donald Trump.

    About 100 students left class at California High School in San Ramon shortly after 1 p.m. Carrying signs that said "Make America United Again," they shouted "Love Trumps Hate" as they walked through the Iron Horse Trail to the steps of City Hall, where they sat down in a peaceful sit-in.

    At one point, the protesters shouted "thank you" to the San Ramon police officers who followed them and who halted traffic to make room for them. The officers responded with big smiles and thumbs up, saying the thanks was "very much appreciated."

    Among the dozens of protests happening in the Bay Area, San Ramon's is unique: The city is largely considered one of the more conservative enclaves in the staunchly Democratic region. On Tuesday, city voters helped elect Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, the Bay Area's only GOP legislator, to her second term.

    According to Danika Katovich, a student and primary organizer of the demonstration, the protest was a gesture of solidarity with students who may feel marginalized because of a Trump presidency, including women, Muslims, Blacks, Latinos and members of the LGBT community.

    "A large group of people felt genuinely unsafe," Katovich said. "Not necessarily because of Donald Trump, but because of the sentiments that he put forward in his campaign that have given racists, sexist, homophobic people the platform to be like 'Yes, I can hate openly now.' That's not good for our country."

    Students who participated in the protest were told by teachers that they would be given an unexcused absence after leaving fifth period, but those in attendance told NBC Bay Area that it was worth it. At least one instructor, Rebecca Bartow, came down to City Hall to show solidarity with the grieving students.

    "I came to hear them, stand with them and hopefully work together to move things forward," said Barstow.

    Katovich and Alana Winston, the president of the Black Student Union at California High, both fear that a Trump presidency will legitimize and stoke racism and prejudice. The protest, they said, was to show that discriminatory behavior will not be tolerated on their campus.

    "There are going to be more things planned," Winston said. "This isn't it."

    Protests have erupted nationwide in response to the election of Donald Trump. Thousands flocked to San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley over the last two days to decry a presidency that they feel is fueled and based on hate.

    In Contra Costa County, students walked out of Concord and Olympic High Schools, Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, and at Pittsburg High School.

    In Concord, a city with a large Latino population, the devastation of a Trump presidency is especially acute. One of the president-elect's most prominent platforms was the creation of a "big, beautiful wall" separating Mexico from the U.S. and a "deportation force," rattling many students who know or who are undocumented immigrants.

    "It's not that I'm afraid for myself, I'm afraid for the immigrant community that is made up in California and I am hurting for them," explained Irma Soto, a student at Olympic High School. "The thing is, there are so many things that are being said to the immigrant community that they feel scared, dehumanized, like they're not worth anything."

    A whopping majority of the protesters in Contra Costa County have been peaceful, although three minors who attend Pittsburg High School were arrested during the protest. Two teachers at College Park were also assaulted by protesters who didn't attend the school, according to police. 

    The Republican National Committee's Harmeet Dhillon said that she sympathized with the Concord and San Ramon protesters, but opined that marching in the streets would do "no good."

    "There are no do-overs," she said. "Maybe they missed their civics class. They should have learned that what happened in the White House today is what happens in America. The outgoing president meets with the incoming president -- no matter the party -- and hands over the reins of power peacefully."

    Students said Thursday that they will continue to fight against hateful rhetoric, social injustice and inequality. Many of the students at both the Concord and San Ramon protests are looking forward to voting, saying that they are hopeful 2018 and 2020 will bring Congress back to the Democrats and push Trump from the White House. 

    "We didn't have a say in this but I am going to vote when I can," Soto said. "But right now, this is the only option we have to show we are not okay with what's going on." 

    Gillian Edevane covers Contra Costa County for NBC Bay Area. Contact her at Gillian.Edevane@NBCuni.com.

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