Interview with students from Richard Montgomery Walk-Out Protest


Now that we have had time to begin to digest the reality of a Trump presidency, whether you voted for him or not, it is evident as soon as we turn on the news that the country remains very divided.

In the diverse, little community of Rockville, MD (a democratic state by majority) we have witnessed a number of different reactions from our peers. Surprisingly, one of the most vocal and opinionated groups aren’t even allowed to vote yet.

This past week, students at Richard Montgomery High School just 2 miles from Montgomery College, staged a school wide walk-out in protest of president-elect Donald Trump and what they believe to be the bigoted values he holds. This one of many protests staged at high schools all across Montgomery County including Springbrook, Seneca Valley and Montgomery Blair.

Three female students at the RM walk-out
Three female students at the RM walk-out


I spoke with two girls of the senior class at Richard Montgomery, Ayanna Upsher and Gaby Phillips, who participated in the walk-out.

Q: Whose idea was it to do a walk-out? When did you first hear the idea circulating around and how was it organized?

A: Upsher: It was Daniel, from the student union’s idea. They all organized it. I heard about it from snapchat and it was a group in facebook. It circulated through social media.

Q: Did anyone try to prevent the protest from happening/discourage you from doing it?

A: Phillips: No one tried to prevent it. From the start our principle said we have every right to carry on with it although he didn’t encourage or say he condoned it. Some of my friends told me it was pointless, that protesting was stupid and that it wouldn’t accomplish anything. However that didn’t discourage me, I knew I was going to participate no matter what.

Q: What were you guys trying to accomplish with this protest?

A:Phillips: A lot of people asked what the goal was of the protest. They think it’s stupid because they think we are trying to take away the presidency from Trump. That’s not it. He’s president and that’s done with. We were protesting against his hateful rhetoric. His homophobic, sexist and racist comments. We were protesting to let our gay friends, Muslim friends, trans friends and friends of color to know that we will always be there for them and that they are always welcome at RM.

Q: How did you feel while you were marching?


Upsher I felt extremely empowered and watching adults watch us and cheer us on and videotape let me know we weren’t alone. I felt as though the voice they didn’t want to be heard was finally heard.

Phillips: While I was marching I felt a huge sense of community and unity. I have never felt so empowered before. Everyone was coming together so beautifully and the love I felt was amazing. People of all genders, sexuality, races and backgrounds all came together to protest for love. That just proves Trump doesn’t win. Nothing will separate us. We love one one another, we are all human and those protesting all thought in the same way.

Q: A lot of people don’t take teenagers seriously when it comes to their opinions on politics, how do you want adults to view this protest?


Upsher: I feel the teenage voice should be considered since we will have the most time on this planet. When adults say we don’t matter they sound ignorant and oblivious to that fact. Some of us missed the voting eligibility by a few months and that’s frustrating. They should see this as us understanding what’s going on in politics and that we aren’t too young to comprehend someone who isn’t fit to be our president.

Phillips: This bothers me the most. We might be teenagers but we are aware of our surroundings. I have watched every debate and kept up with politics as much as I was able to. However for me, this protest really wasn’t about politics. It was about hate vs. love. When adults say we’re too young I beg to differ. I saw Trump kick out a disabled man from his rally, I’ve heard his plans to deport Mexicans, I’ve heard all of the hate he has thrown around and if adults want to tell me I’m too young to understand, I think that’s ridiculous. I know hate when I see it. I know when it’s wrong. And I know that what Trump stands for is wrong, and no one can silence my voice because I will always fight for equality no matter my age.

Q:There was an altercation during the march that left one student injured, is there anything you want to say about that?

A: Phillips: I am deeply disappointed that a few students turned to violence. The injured boy was yelling derogatory terms such as the n word, faggot and saying “hail Hitler.” He does have freedoms of speech so violence should have never been used against him and I am not condoning it. I just would like those facts to be known as well. It was a supposed to be a peaceful protest and no one should have been injured at all. That being said though, hundreds of us stayed peaceful and marched for what we believed in and the media isn’t focusing on that, but instead on the one act of violence. So I think it’s also important to highlight the good as well.

Q: Moving forward, do you plan to become more or less involved in social activism? Why or why not? What did you take away from this experience and what advice would you give to other kids your age looking to get involved in social activism?


Upsher: This protest made me want to be more socially active and I can finally allow my voice to be heard. I will protest again when I feel the need to because it let me realize that a lot of people notice bad things and when we come together we can be noticed. I encourage kids to become more socially active in anyway they feel comfortable may it be contacting the source or organizing protest. They should voice their opinions because they may be surprised how many people feel the same.

Phillips: Moving forward I intend to remain involved in social activism. I want to stand on the right side of history. There are fundamental human rights at stake here and I must stand up for what is right. I am fortunate to be privileged. I recognize that I am privileged because of where I live but also because I am white. White supremacy does exist in our country and part of the problem is when people try to ignore that. I am not blind to it. I know it exists although I hate that it does and I want to fight as hard as I can to change it. Every human deserves the same opportunities. We are all the same when you strip away our outsides and that is something I have always been puzzled by- why race, gender, and anything on the outside matters. But we live in a society where it does so while I’m alive I’m going to do everything I can to change that. This experience opened my eyes to how empowering standing up for what you believe in is. Advice to other kids regarding social activism would just be to always stand up for what you believe in. You’re not too young and don’t be discouraged by others. Always be peaceful and respectful but also get your point across.

Regardless of your views on Trump or his ideals, I think it is safe to say no matter who is sworn into office this coming January, our future is in very good hands with the young people who will one day lead this nation.

Phillips and Upsher both represent an entire community of students who are bright, educated and open-minded and able lead a campaign of love and acceptance in the face of a campaign of hate and intolerance. In Montgomery County, students and young people lead the initiative when it comes to spreading tolerance and love.