A coalition of Los Angeles high school students and grassroots organizers just accomplished the unthinkable. After nearly two years of sit-ins and protests, they forced the police department for the second-largest public school district in the United States to remove grenade launchers, M-16 rifles, a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle and other military-grade weaponry from its arsenal.
But the coalition did not stop there. Members took over a Los Angeles Unified School District board meeting in February to call for proof that the arms had been returned to the Department of Defense—a demand they eventually won in the form of an itemized invoice for every weapon sent back to the DoD.
Going further, the coalition successfully pressed board members of the school district to apologize for greenlighting the policing of K-12 students with weapons of war.
Perhaps most stunningly, the coalition eventually persuaded the Los Angeles School Police Department to issue its own apology. “The LASPD recognizes the sensitive historical aspect of associating ‘military-like’ equipment and military presence within a civilian setting,” wrote Chief Steven Zipperman in a letter dated May 18. “We recognize that this sensitive historical component may not have been considered when originally procuring these type of logistics within a civilian or K-12 public school setting.”
The resounding victories were won in a district where the vast majority of students are black and latino.