Students Against 187

Against the Current, No. 54, January/February 1995

Angel R. Cervantes

THIS YEAR 1994 shall be remembered in the annals of history as the infamous year which gave birth to Proposition 187 and rebirth to Governor Pete Wilson. This year shall also be remembered for the tumultuous political mobilizations which pricked the conscience of a generation of youth and ignited a statewide student movement.

I have written this piece as both a participant and an observer in hopes that my experiences in the student movement can answer questions, clear up misconceptions and refute criticisms that have been levied upon our movement.

The first, most basic question that everyone asks is: who was behind all of the “walk-outs” and mass demonstrations? Like all grassroots movements, the student movement began as localized, spontaneous actions organized by individual campuses and by individual students.

Those who claim that students were manipulated by outside agitators ignore the reality that most of the civil disobedience perpetrated in the high schools was organized by the students themselves using a trial-by-error method. It was through this process that student leaders began to emerge all over the city.

Realizing the power that mass mobilizations conferred upon the movement, student leaders from all over the city began to talk to one another and organize citywide meetings to develop an organized plan of action. It was at these meetings that the organization known as the California Student Movement was born.

Although this was only one of the many coalitions that comprised the student movement, it was by far one of the largest and most diverse. Our student coalition did not advocate “walk-outs,” but we publicly stood in defense of all students who organized non-violent mobilizations against Prop. 187.

Some critics of the Student Movement believe that it was the students that “ruined” the election and scared people into supporting Prop. 187. They claim that the student walkouts, protests and use of Mexican flags hurt our community more than it helped. These critics are the same people who urged voters to vote No on 187 because, if 187 passed, “our” neighborhoods would be overrun by “their” violence and disease.

The Student Movement proudly proclaims that it defended the immigrant community with pride, not with scare tactics. We were and are a movement of the people, not for the people. Those who supported 187 didn’t need us to convince them. On the contrary, the walkouts and flags created a public forum for discussion of the issues.

People may not have agreed with our tactics, but they had to acknowledge our presence.

Even though Proposition 187 and Pete Wilson have seemingly emerged victorious, the spirits of students on a national level are extremely high. We are not defeated. We are not done. We have begun to create a student network on a national level and we are prepared to proceed to organize national simultaneous mobilizations in defense of immigrant rights.

ATC 54, January-February 1995