Stepping out (safely) for social change

For many students, summer is a time to relax. They don’t have the stress of school, and they can spend their time how they please. Most of the time, students take the time to hang out with friends or travel with family. However, this past summer, many students took the extra time as an opportunity to create change.
OPRF students, along with many other students across the country, took part in protests related to the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement gained popularity at the start of the summer because of a widely shared video of the murder of George Floyd. Floyd, who had been stopped for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill, was pinned down by officers, one with his knee on Floyds neck, for 7 minutes. The prolonged restraint resulted in Floyds death; and a video of the incident, taken by a bystander, was a reminder for many of the atrocities still being committed against Black Americans.
However, despite some negative attention regarding the protests, they have been linked to many changes that have occurred both locally and across the United States. Locally, the District 200 school board voted to remove the School Resource Officer (SRO) from OPRF, a change that local organizers have been calling for to help make students of color feel safer in school.
For OPRF senior Quinn Flemming, the surge in the Black Lives Matter movement nationally motivated him to participate in local rallies. “I became more passionate along with the big BLM push.” Flemming, who attended two protests over the summer, cited the removal of the SRO as a sign of positive change. “The protests I went to resulted in the police department being removed from school.”
Others, like senior Salome Pintado-Vertner, have been involved with the BLM movement for years. “I always knew it was dire and desperate (George Floyd’s murder) just proved this point more.” Pintado-Vertner also mentioned a possible reason for large youth turnout at protests: “I heard (about) a lot of (protests) from … Snapchat and Instagram…they were all over the place.”
Despite being involved in the BLM movement, Pintado-Vertner couldn’t attend all the protests she wanted to due to concerns she had over COVID-19 and the possibility of police violence.
Senior Maclaine Watson shared similar concerns. “I was going to attend the one downtown, but my mom got nervous about Covid and me getting shot with rubber bullets and tear gas used by the police.” Though threats of COVID-19 and police violence stopped some from attending, Watson said she still believes the protests served an important role and helped to bring about necessary change.
Watson explained, “I think the protests have brought so many more conversations along and have brought a lot of awareness and a demand for change nationally.” Watson added, “I hope for a good turnout for the election so that policies will be more likely to change under a more liberal president who supports and understands the severity and importance of the movement.”