By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Seventeen-year-old Boulder High School student Travis Moe admits that most teenagers his age just want to get drunk and get laid.
"I have been really cynical lately," said Moe, a dreadlocked senior who wears flip-flops in blizzards. "No one talks about politics or the world."
He did, however, find some peers who were concerned about their futures, particularly under the Bush administration. So, when dissenters across the nation were protesting President Bush’s re-election, Moe and fellow members of the 10-student-strong activist group Student Worker held a rally/sleep-in in Boulder High School’s library on November 4 to oppose Bush’s policies, the national debt, military recruitment in schools, disregard for the environment and, more importantly, to prove to the nation that they weren’t just a bunch of horny teenagers. "I just needed some affirmation that school wasn’t as apathetic as I thought it was," said Moe.
It also became a call to arms for students across the country.
"The youth around the country need to know that their futures are being betrayed," said 17-year-old Cameron Ely-Murdock, who helped organize the sleep-in. "If we don’t voice our opinions it won’t stop. We really want people to understand that we can’t just accept the fact that the world thinks we are apathetic youth. If you have a problem with the government, you need to do something about it. We agree that Bush sucks, but we aren’t doing anything about it."
A lot of planning went into the sleep-in. On November 3, Student Worker members called various cliques, looked up Colorado state codes, began writing speeches, prepared to meet with the administration, and made shirts and signs. They talked on the phone with members’ fathers who were lawyers to find out their legal rights as well as the school’s, and wrote up a list of concerns, which included the war in Iraq and the possibility of a future draft.
And of course, they called their parents.
"My mom was nervous," said Moe, who played Bender, the rebel played by Judd Nelson, in the school’s version of The Breakfast Club. "She respects me as an independent individual, but she didn’t think much good would come out of it. She thought I would get suspended. I told her it would be a moral stance. She was so proud."
The November 4 protest, which started after classes finished at 3:15 p.m. on Thursday, drew more than 80 of Boulder High’s 2,000 students, who bunked down for the night with the blessing of the school principal, Ron Cabrera, who originally wanted them out of the library by 5 p.m. Cabrera relented after the students agreed to clean up and attend first-period classes the following morning.
"I was surprised when the principal allowed the protest," said Ely-Murdock. "Even a bit disappointed. It kind of ruined the whole idea of ‘sticking it to the man,’ but I think we ended up getting more media attention because of it."
Several "peace" flags hung from the bookshelves in the library. On the wall, crooked black markings read, "We are the generation that will have to take on and suffer from the burden." Under the supervision of parents and teachers, the students, who ranged from modern-day hippies adorned in beanies and hemp necklaces, to leather-jacket-clad punk rockers, to conservatively dressed Democrats, sat on the floor and on tables, laughing, shaking maracas, playing the guitar and patting drums. One student, Brian Martens, wore ’70s-style sunglasses and a hand-lettered T-shirt proclaiming him the "senior executive of the subcommittee on protesting stuff."
"We even had some of the mainstream self-proclaimed ‘popular’ students showing up," said Moe, but, "We didn’t get the jocks or cheerleaders."
The students read speeches by Martin Luther King and sang Beatles songs like "Give Peace a Chance," while organizers called the press and local pols like Congressman Mark Udall (D–Eldorado Springs) and newly elected Democratic Senator Ken Salazar. Meanwhile, a New Yorker, after seeing the sleep-in on the national news, ordered the students two pepperoni pizzas and a cheese pizza from the pizza joint across the street. He said they looked hungry.
With Moe at the helm, Student Worker has in the past voiced its concerns about standardized statewide student-assessment testing and the U.S. Marines’ setting up a recruitment table in the school library. However, the sleep-in was the group’s first foray at activism in years.
"I am the hippie. I am the protester. I am the actor and filmmaker. People have high expectations of me," said Moe, explaining why he led the sleep-in. "But, outside of Boulder, we would most likely have bricks thrown through our windows and graffiti smeared across my car."
Cabrera agreed. "These kids have more of a political bent," he said. "Kids in Boulder have a little more knowledge of politics. I received messages wondering why kids were doing these types of things. ‘Who is in charge here?’ That type of question. They clearly didn’t know the thinking that went into this and how they planned it. The media envisioned it as a ‘Hell No We Won’t Go,’ but it was very cooperative on both sides."