How a group of New Jersey high schoolers led a massive, 4,000-person protest

On Saturday, June 6, a small group of teenagers wearing graduation caps and yellow commencement gowns stood on the steps of a New Jersey city hall.

They weren’t posing for graduation photos though. Instead, the students from McNair Academic High School were in downtown Jersey City to lead more than 4,000 people in a moving, peaceful protest. 

The event, like thousands of other demonstrations the past several weeks, was held in response to the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as the numerous Black people who have lost their lives to police brutality. Where this protest differed, though, was that it was seemingly organized entirely by high schoolers. 

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THE PHOTOS OF THESE YOUNG GRADUATES NEED TO GO VIRAL. And I’m about to tell you why… I am so proud of these 2020 McNair graduates. They were organized, thoughtful, honest, informed, and powerful. They moved and inspired me more than any orators I’ve heard in my lifetime, because they were incredibly intentional and offered facts and real solutions to strive for. So many important messages voiced yesterday, that I feel I have to amplify them! Beautiful, intelligent, and strong A’dreana of the @black.diaspora has so much to teach us at just 18—a strength, no doubt, which will fuel all of her future successes at Howard University and beyond (I’m thinking Congress and/ or Presidency). I wrote a whole post about A’dreana’s demands, ideas, and sentiments, but they didn’t all fit in one IG caption, so I typed them all into a blog post, and I’m encouraging you to read ALL of what these young leaders have to say! Please check the link in my bio and spread their demands for change and continue to educate one another. These children, in their caps and gowns should be celebrating their milestones, should be getting excited over their colleges, should have been at prom, or relaxing and enjoying their youth. Instead they are on the steps of City Hall, organizing and educating their fellow citizens. They inspired 4,000 people to march with them. What are WE doing to aid them in a brighter future?

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Advertised straightforwardly as a “rally to end police brutality,” the demonstration was planned by members of McNair’s Black Diaspora Club, a Black culture club aiming to promote “love, support and unity,” according to the group’s Instagram bio. 

All of those elements appeared present during Saturday’s event, which required attendees to wear face masks and warned people not to show up if they had “malicious intent” in their hearts.  

Several of the speakers were high school students or recent graduates who earned waves of praise from their school, their community and educators nationwide. 

“As a high school teacher in the Bronx, I was so inspired by your spirit, heart, intelligence, and passion,” one person wrote on one of the club’s Instagram posts. “I can’t wait to see what you all accomplish as you go out and take over the world.”

“This MAHS Class of 1986 alum is SO proud of you, our future leaders! Congratulations on a successful, inspirational rally and of course, on your graduation,” another added.

The students didn’t stop there, either. The McNair Diaspora Club has already organized and attended more rallies in the days following Saturday’s massive turnout. One event, held on June 8, reportedly drew the attendance of Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. Another protest the following day brought in 1,000 people, according to the town’s Patch website. 

If you’d like to support Black Lives Matter and the protests nationwide, here’s a list of ways to help

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