Hundreds of New York City high school and college students followed in Betsy DeVos’ footsteps on Tuesday by not going to public school.
Students left class at 12 p.m. to meet at Foley Square in Manhattan, where they were initially scheduled to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policy and “bigotry, hatred and prejudice,” according to the event’s Facebook page.
The gathering coincided with DeVos’ confirmation as Trump’s education secretary, via a tie vote in the Senate that Vice President Mike Pence broke.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle have criticized DeVos for lacking the qualifications for the job and for setting her sights on reforming the public education system despite never attending or working for public schools.
Tuesday’s protest was organized in part by 17-year-old Hebh Jamal, who told a crowd of mostly high schoolers, “We know the president is anti-immigrant. We know there are 50,000 New Yorkers whose future is uncertain,” according to amNewYork.
Students braved rain and cold weather to crowd the square, holding signs and listening to a revolving cast of speakers, including New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.
“This is a learning space. This is a classroom. This is a lesson in civic history,” James said, according to Gothamist. “Throughout history it’s always been young people who have stood in the face of intolerance and indifference to demand tolerance and demand love.”
The event, co-sponsored by the New York Immigration Coalition, Arab American Association of New York, and MPower Change, ended with a march to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services building.
Organizers told students to “remain vigilant” on the event’s Facebook page.
“Even though there was a temporary halt on the Muslim ban, we must remain vigilant. Focus on the next issue. Focus on the injustice that went unnoticed. Right now, this country might be going through a moment of drastic change. Let it be on our terms.”