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Local Elections : PROPOSITION 187 : Student Rally in Oxnard Ends at Park

November 05, 1994|MIGUEL BUSTILLO and IRA E. STOLL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

An anti-Proposition 187 walkout involving 150 students from Oxnard High School and various other middle schools began chaotically Friday when some demonstrators threw apples and ran from police, but ended peacefully with an impassioned speech at Oxnard's Plaza Park.

Meanwhile, about 500 students at Channel Islands High School opted to protest the ballot measure after class by marching around the block with Polynesian-style dancers, a mariachi band and Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez in a rally sponsored by school administrators.

Across the county at Moorpark High, about 50 students gathered in a classroom at lunchtime to devise ways of encouraging adults to vote against 187 while a smaller group marched around the cafeteria, shouting their opposition to the measure.

The Oxnard walkout started when a group of about 40 students--some from Frank and Fremont middle schools--marched from Plaza Park to Oxnard High School about 10 a.m. and persuaded about 400 Oxnard High students to scale the schoolyard fence or exit through an open gate to join their procession. Most quickly returned to class, however, and only about 100 joined the march, police said.

The students then proceeded to march several miles through Oxnard to Hueneme High, Channel Islands High and Oxnard College, but were mostly unsuccessful in their attempts to lure their peers to leave class and join the demonstration. After resting and drinking some water at College Park they made their way to Plaza Park and dispersed.

"People have put us down for leaving school," said Janette Cordova, 16, of Oxnard High. "But I'm fighting for the right of people to get an education, to stay in school. This is the only way people will listen."

*

The march was unruly during its start, as students hurled apples, rocks, and in at least one case a bottle at police cars and passersby. Protesters also lacked a planned route and ran from police several times, scattering across the streets of downtown Oxnard.

Three juveniles were arrested for throwing rocks at police during the protest, said Oxnard Police Sgt. Frank Porter. Two of the teen-agers were taken to Juvenile Hall on suspicion of assault, and the third was taken to the Oxnard Police Station and later released.

In the midst of the protest, a police motorcycle and a squad car collided while trying to keep the students in order near C Street, said Officer Don Mulville. No one was injured and neither vehicle was seriously damaged.

As the march gained momentum, the protesters calmed down--or wore down--and by the end of the demonstration were marching in a neat file under the leadership of a handful of Oxnard College students who joined midway.

"We're just trying to prove that we're united," said Oxnard College student Demetrio Silva, 34. "We're not being violent. We live under a society of oppression and we've been saying 'Yes, sir,' and 'Yes, ma'am' for too long."

Responding to earlier threats of looting, however, police around noon established a cordon of at least two dozen officers in riot gear around the Amar Ranch Food Warehouse.

"Some students said they'd rush the store and ransack it," said Cmdr. Jamie Skeeters. "We asked the manager to shut the store down for a few minutes till they disperse."

*

After more than three hours of marching, the tired students sat down to rest in Plaza Park, but police told them to disperse and go home or return to school.

Before obeying the orders, however, the group, which had dwindled to about 75, remained still while Silva told them to stand up for their rights.

"They're playing with us, they're manipulating us," Silva exhorted the crowd. "First they want us, then they don't."

He told the students that Proposition 187 was the latest episode in a long history of exploitation against Latinos.

"They're targeting our people," Silva said. " . . . They founded their land on rape and pillaging."

After the march, the students quietly left the park and returned to school or went home. The police presence was light compared to a much larger protest last week in Oxnard, where about 1,500 students gathered at the park for an anti-Proposition 187 rally.

But some students warned that if the proposition passes Tuesday, there will be trouble in Ventura County.

"I think it's going to be a war," said Ilma Becerra, 15, of Oxnard High. "Mexicans and whites are not going to get along."

*

By contrast, the demonstration at Channel Islands High at times strayed from the anti-Proposition 187 theme into a broader celebration of cultural differences. Held at the school's football stadium at the end of the school day, the rally was planned by student leaders and school officials seeking to avoid student walkouts.

Students insisted on marching, however--so they marched around the block.

On the way, students chanted "No on 187," but they were drowned out by mariachi music and overshadowed by the Polynesian-style dancers.

Nevertheless, participating students at the school said the event had been an educational experience for them.

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