This past Spring students from different high schools marched against the southern U.S. border wall and in support of thoughtful and empathetic immigration policy. The march began at Love Park at 11:00 a.m. and ended at Welcome Park, across from Senator Pat Toomey’s office, at 12:00 p.m. A brief rally was held at Welcome Park, where organizers Kira Quitel and Sona Wink spoke, along with their peer India Valdivia.
This serves as a wonderful example of young people finding their voices as advocates and leaders. This action is something Quaker school Germantown Friends School promotes.
Germantown Friends School student activists Asaf Lebovic ‘21, Anna Miller ‘22, Jemma Mines ‘21, Kira Quitel ‘21, and Sona Wink ’21 organized this march along with students from other city high schools. Sophomores Lebovic and Wink originally got involved with activism during the Never Again movement, where they helped organize last year’s city-wide student walkout on April 20.
“With this protest, we hope to unify equally frustrated Philadelphians and show our city and nation that its citizens will not tolerate the absurd and dangerous actions of the President,” said Wink.
“This is inhumane. Diversity is natural, and to try to sift out a group of people messes with everything; this is not who America is. We need to be reminded that we the people are all united as a species and we will get so much further if we all work together solving bigger problems,” said Quitel. “A wall is a symbol that will show everyone that America has no interest in uniting to solve bigger issues as a people and that message will have irreversible effects. We cannot let this happen.”
Wink felt the need to do something about the wall when Trump declared a national state of emergency “unjustly for non-reasons and we were upset about that,” she said.
Wink and Lebovic had felt anger about this wall. Lebovic remembers talking to Wink about how they just wanted to do something. “With everything that is happening, there is a feeling of powerlessness and at times it drowns out any positive change which goes on. It (Trump’s national state of emergency) was declared while we were organizing,” said Lebovic. “We wanted to use our voices to the best of our ability to honestly make any change we could. The protest was born out of that. We felt we had to protect something which was being run over by the Trump administration.”
When Wink spoke at Welcome Park, she expressed her frustration about growing up under a very chaotic administration. Wink went through what Trump has been doing and then zoomed into a more local level. It felt appropriate for her to talk about Philadelphia’s sanctuary city status. Wink talked about what she believes makes our country great–not how big our military is or how scary we look but how accepting we are of others.
Lebovic does not think the march was received too well as there were timing conflicts. He said people weren’t necessarily against it and not a lot of people showed up. “People also feel that desperation on the other end where they think that no matter what they do, they can’t make an effect,” he told us.
At least half of the people at the march weren’t from Germantown Friends. One thing that made Lebovic really happy was to see the community reaction because they got some positive responses through Instagram. After the march, a few policemen came over to talk to them and said some kind words. The community reacted really well and that made him happy.
To promote the march, Germantown Friends staff put up posters and spoke in the assembly briefly.
For Lebovic and Wink, it’s not about planning an event months beforehand. When something infuriates them, they begin organizing the week of. “Whatever issue affects us or angers us or evokes some reaction in us, I guess that’s what we’ll do next,” he concluded.
Wink said they have spoken about possibly removing Columbus Day as a holiday and finding some way to make Election Day a holiday within Philadelphia so that people can attend.