PORTLAND, Ore. – The first significant protest in Portland surrounding the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump took place Thursday afternoon, when high-school students walked out of school for a rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square, followed by a march.
The protest, organized by the Portland Student Action Network, targeted Besty DeVos, Trump’s pick for education secretary whose recent confirmation hearing drew sharp criticism. DeVos is a champion of charter schools and her policies could threaten federal funding for public schools.
Rally has started pic.twitter.com/WLIh31n0pL— Mike Benner (@MikeBennerKGW) January 20, 2017
"As students, we recognize that the president-elect’s platform and the appointment of billionaire Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education will accelerate the corporate privatization of education,” the Portland Student Action Network wrote. “Policies that promote ‘school choice’ and charter schools devastate the public education system and disproportionately exploit economically disadvantaged students and students of color. DeVos’s lobbying has led to the destruction of public schools in Michigan. We cannot allow her to use her new cabinet position to destroy public school districts across the country. Our education should not be for profit.”
Participants walked out of school at 3:15 p.m. and gathered at Pioneer Courthouse Square. They began marching at 5 p.m., and planned to give speeches following a half-hour march to the Salmon Street Springs at Waterfront Park. The protesters briefly marched in the area for another 15 minutes before calling it a night.
Dozens of students took part in the march, along with some teachers.
One of the protesters was issued a 30-day park exclusion from Waterfront Park after he took a machete and two other knives with him, a violation of City of Portland Park rules.
On Friday, an Inauguration Day protest is expected to draw thousands of people and more than 35,000 have said they will attend Saturday’s Women’s March on Portland.