Elementary school students and teachers from New Highland Academy in Oakland marched to the local library Thursday … with a police escort. They used to take the six-block walk every third Thursday, but gun violence in the neighborhood halted the monthly outings.
The group marched wearing signs around their neck that said “Peace. Love. Books.” and chanting, “What do we want? Peace!”
Armed escorts from the Oakland Police Department kept watch.
New Highland Academy teacher Donald Carter said the trips to the library stopped after a shooting near the library last month, which his class heard as they were getting ready for the walk over.
“We heard a series of shots in the distance, toward the library,” Carter said. “We decided it would not be wise to continue. We were locked down – the entire school – for over an hour.”
Teacher Tracy Dordell recalled a previous library trip when she and her students stumbled across the aftermath of a shooting, one in which a former Academy student was killed.
“We could see the crime scene,” she said. “You could see the coroner’s van right there. And we sort of just looked at each other .. . and we were like, what do we do? How do we not let them see?”
Eight-year-old Jose Castillo said he understands why his class stopped going.
“There’s a lot of violence and there’s people dying,” he said.
The kids and teachers know that the police escort Thursday was just a one-time event. Councilman Larry Reid walking with the march said that the police department simply doesn’t have the manpower.
Tracy Dordell said she hopes parents will step forward.
“We want to have the community reclaim itself and respect itself,” she said. “We want them…to be safe and be able to access all of these things that the community is offering.”