A Maryland high school student wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap was injured and taken to the hospital Wednesday morning after he scuffled with a group of anti-Donald Trump protesters who punched and kicked him, according to police.
Police said the injured student was from Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville and had joined hundreds of students who poured into the streets to speak out against President-elect Donald Trump and the divisiveness of his remarks during the presidential campaign.
About 10:30 a.m., as the students streamed up Maryland Avenue, a confrontation broke out between the student wearing the cap that had Trump’s campaign slogan on it and another student, said Rockville Police Maj. Michael England.
Soon, four other students jumped in, and the student wearing the Trump hat was punched and kicked, England said. The student ended up on the ground in the grass near the county office building.
England said the incident is under investigation; police have identified one student involved in the fray, and that student will be charged with second-degree assault. The injured student had some scrapes, he said, and was disoriented.
A parent who looked on as the students marched said she saw the Trump supporter belatedly join the marchers and begin to argue with them. She said she tried to defuse the situation and that the student argued with her, too. She said he told her, “I have my right to free speech too,” and that he looked at the crowd and said, “Go home.” She did not see the later physical confrontation.
The scuffle came after several hundred Richard Montgomery students left their classes about 10 a.m. Wednesday and joined in a march and protest that converged on the old Montgomery County District Courthouse. Montgomery school district officials estimated that 300 to 400 students protested.
The students chanted “Not my president,” and many carried signs that said “Stronger Together” and “Love Trumps Hate,” campaign slogans of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Many who heard about the scuffle with the Trump supporter voiced regret that it marred an otherwise peaceful protest.
“We’re here to spread love and peace and support and justice for everyone,” said Xochi Cartland, 17, a senior. Cartland said that while she did not dispute Trump’s victory in the election, “we don’t want to allow all of this bigotry and hate in our country.”
Richard Montgomery principal Damon Monteleone told the school community that it was unfortunate that a physical altercation between two students who had opposing political viewpoints occurred during the student gathering.
“This is unacceptable and the perpetrator will receive appropriate consequences,” Monteleone wrote in a letter Wednesday afternoon. “Our nation has been through an election season that rises to historical proportions in terms of vitriolic rhetoric and has the potential to divide us. Our school is a microcosm of our nation, and both the wounds and the pride that our divided nation feel, are also felt by our community. . . . While we are all entitled to our own viewpoints and opinions, we must be respectful of opinions that differ from our own. . . . Hateful speech or acts, intimidating language, and bullying for any reason will not be tolerated.”
Many students said the protests are an important way to express their views because they are too young to cast votes. Several students said that if the election had been left to the country’s youngest generation, the result would have been different.
“We are feeling very left out of the process,” said Michelle Dubovitsky, 17, a senior. “We feel our political voice has not been heard, and we are the future of this country.”
Many passersby who stopped to watch the rally at the courthouse praised the activism. Students filled the front steps of the building and the sidewalks in front of it. They took turns speaking to the crowd.
“I think it’s great that high school students are so interested in the future of this country,” said Ana Gergely, a retiree who works in her son’s law office.
Students from six other Montgomery County high schools participated in protests of varying sizes Wednesday, but the Richard Montgomery walkout was the day’s largest, school officials said. The walkouts came as students at high schools locally and nationally have taken to the streets in similar protests.
In the Washington region, hundreds of students from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring walked out Monday, their demonstration gaining strength as they were joined by students from Northwood and Albert Einstein high schools during a protest that lasted more than three hours.
In downtown Washington, a couple thousand middle school and high school students protested Tuesday, crowding streets and chanting until they arrived at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Students from Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest Washington organized the protest, which attracted their peers from schools throughout the city. They said they wanted to make their voices heard and to show Trump that, despite his campaign’s divisive rhetoric, their diverse ranks would stand united.
In Montgomery County, school officials have said students who missed class would be marked with unexcused absences unless their parents provide a note saying they approved the absence.