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In San Francisco, Local Teens Consider Protesting Right-Wing Marches


Marches in California this weekend are expected to draw crowds of white supremacists to San Francisco and Berkeley. Youth Radio's Amber Ly takes us inside conversations among Bay area teenagers, teachers and parents who are trying to decide whether they should attend counter-demonstrations or avoid the marches altogether.

CHELA DELGADO: If you would take out the note sheet from yesterday about the different film clips...

AMBER LY, BYLINE: It's the second day of school here in Oakland, Calif., and the classroom conversation is already getting real.

DELGADO: A lot of folks have said that that strategy has not actually helped us, right? Like, we still have racism.

LY: High school teacher Chela Delgado is talking with junior Gabriela Ojeda at Coliseum College Prep Academy about counter-protests planned this weekend.

DELGADO: So I'm curious. Do you think that nonviolence can be a successful strategy in this moment?

GABRIELA OJEDA: I think it will work because we're not trying to be the violent ones. We're trying to be, like, the problem solvers. We're not going to let the white supremacists get to us to make us look like the criminals.

DELGADO: OK. In Charlottesville, a number of folks were trying to protest nonviolently, and then violence occurred. So I think that if you're choosing to not participate, that also makes a lot of sense.

LY: Lots of teens are having similar conversations with the adults in their lives. Should they take to the streets to oppose the white nationalist rallies, or should they avoid the whole thing altogether? In West Oakland, Moriah Ulinskas, a mom with a long track record of activism, is showing me a homemade banner that says truth matters in big, yellow letters.

MORIAH ULINSKAS: This is how we march with it. Look. There's little handles.

LY: Moriah and her daughter Mila de la Torre have gone to a couple of marches together this year. They even flew to D.C. for the Women's March in January. But so far, only 15-year-old Mila is down to join this weekend's protest against racism.

MILA DE LA TORRE: With or without you, with or without any friends, like, I was, like, definitely going to be going to a counter-protest. I felt that that was, like, really, really important to me because I didn't, want to, like - to be a bystander and just let it happen. I wanted to go and protest against it.

ULINSKAS: And it makes me proud to hear you say all that. But I don't want you going (laughter).

MILA: Guns (laughter).

ULINSKAS: No, not just the guns. We have a bunch of crazy people descending on our home, trying to instigate a fight with us. I'm just not willing to play foil to them or have you do it.

LY: After I left, they kept talking. And now Mila does have permission to go to a counter-demonstration, one billed as peaceful. She promised to text her mom a lot. My friend 18-year-old Sayyid-Ali Abdel-Qawi is in a different boat with his dad, Matin.

SAYYID-ALI ABDEL-QAWI: What if I wanted to go and counter-protest these rallies this weekend?

MATIN ABDEL-QAWI: Obviously I wouldn't want anything to happen to you or anyone else that participates. But I think you should be there. You should be safe. You should make good decisions. And you shouldn't participate in violence. But you should participate, and your voice should be heard.

S. ABDEL-QAWI: So, like, about me going, though - do you think the rules are different due to my race, being an African-American?

M. ABDEL-QAWI: It is - yeah, different rules apply. Like, different rules apply to you in all aspects of your life, though. So definitely going to a protest, yeah, you would get targeted by police. Your chances of getting arrested is significantly higher even being in the vicinity. You will get targeted by white nationalists. You'll get targeted by everybody. But at the same time, that's more reason to be there.

LY: Sayyid says he understands where his dad is coming from, and he seriously considered going face-to-face with white supremacists at tomorrow's rally near the Golden Gate Bridge. But in the end, he says he'll stay home at least this time around not because he doesn't care but because he doesn't want to become a target. For NPR News, I'm Amber Ly.

SHAPIRO: That story was produced by Youth Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Amber Ly