SAM HIXON'S PARENTS WERE NOT pleased when he arrived home from school last week escorted by the LAPD. Hixon, who turned 17 last Monday, was detained by two officers when he allegedly stepped off the curb in violation of a police skirmish line during a student walkout from Fairfax High School to protest the impending invasion of Iraq. "That's when I got cuffed," he says. "They took me to the station for an hour, but they didn't charge me with anything." In fact, except for getting his picture snapped by the Los Angeles Times, Hixon got off "scot-free."
That's surprising only when you consider that Hixon himself organized the protest. The high school junior became moved to anti-war activism after attending a local meeting of Not in Our Name, the group that has mobilized celebrities, intellectuals and ordinary folk to add their names to the roster of resistance. Inspired to "give youth a voice" in the anti-war movement, Hixon made a couple of speeches on campus and handed out some fliers notifying his fellow students of his plans. Hixon claims that Fairfax's principal, whom Hixon refers to proudly as "Ms. Heather Daims," sent out a memo the Friday before asking teachers to allow the walkout to happen. And on Monday, January 27, at noon, some 1,000 students left their classrooms while five television news cameras looked on.
Hixon admits he had some crowd-control issues, and that some adults around him were disappointed that the walkout wasn't better managed. And undoubtedly some kids were less than sincere: "A large number of students -- I'd say about 30 percent -- were just taking advantage of the situation to get out of class. But that wasn't the majority," Hixon insists. "And even those students who didn't completely understand got an education, because there was so much literature being handed out. I'd see them sitting on the sidewalk reading." Hixon did, however, object to a band of classmates carrying signs with anti-police slogans on them. "I went up personally and told them to put those down," he says. "I told them, 'That is not our message -- we're not here to battle the police, but to make sure students have a voice.'"
Daims gave Hixon a perfunctory day's suspension, which he spent with friends Michael Horton and Sean Aquino printing up fliers for another walkout, on the morning of Thursday, February 6, at 11:30 -- this one at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES), where Horton is a junior. "We want to have something to hand out that lets the youth know what their rights are," Hixon says. "When the students planned a walkout in Montebello, they chained the front doors of the school closed, which is a fire violation. It's scary to think that they can do something like that and no one stops them." He won't be at LACES for the walkout -- "I don't want to bring the whole school board down on me," he says -- but he's given Horton the benefit of his experience: Among other things, keep your feet firmly planted on the sidewalk.
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In the end, Hixon's parents, both of them veterans of civil rights and Vietnam-era protests, recovered from the shock: "In a way it was a parent's dream," says Ken Hixon, "because the school administrators and LAPD treated him with respect. Even the two officers who brought him home were actively engaged with him in a debate about free speech and crowd control. For an old hippie like me, that's good to see."