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Youth Rally Draws Students, Politicians to Boston Common

By Jonah S. Berger and Cecilia R. D'Arms, Contributing Writers

Students and political leaders descended on Boston Common Saturday afternoon to voice frustration with the current political system and demonstrate their commitment to youth activism through Boston’s Youth Action March.

The event, organized by Harvard undergraduate Zachary D. Steigerwald Schnall ’21, began with speeches from close to a dozen politicians and student activists from around the Boston area, followed by a march around the perimeter of the Common.

Although the march’s Facebook page stated that the event was open to those of all “political leanings,” speakers derided many aspects of President Donald Trump’s agenda. Rally-goers wielded signs bearing slogans such as “defend DACA,” referencing a program to protect undocumented youth that Trump announced last month he would end, “public education is the backbone of the nation,” and “Black Lives Matter.”

“Your bodies are under attack. Your rights are under attack,” Boston city councilman and mayoral candidate Tito Jackson told the crowd. “It is absolutely critical that men step up and stand up for the rights of women and their right to choose what they do with their bodies.”

Most speakers, however, spoke about local issues that have a more direct impact in ordinary residents’ lives, calling on young people to play a role in politics.

“We have an opportunity in the city of Boston to do things a little bit different. We should be fully funding our Boston public schools,” Jackson said to loud applause.

Similar marches, dubbed “Youth Action Marches,” took place in six other cities around the country as well, reflecting a surge in activism in the wake of Trump’s election. The marches grew out of a youth march organized by Schnall and Bostonian Matthew T. Summers in April.

“We ran the first march as kind of a test run to see if the concept had potential. And we thought based on the attendees’ reactions to it and the passion that they had when they were at the first march that it really did,” said Schnall. “So starting in about mid-July we began outreach to other cities as well."

Organizers and speakers urged young people to get involved with the political process and make sure their voices are heard.

“We are at a crossroads in terms of the society we are going to be and [the] opportunities there will be for people to thrive here in the Commonwealth,” Setti Warren, mayor of Newton and 2018 gubernatorial candidate, told The Crimson prior to the event. “This is a moment where youth activism is...critical and will decide what direction we go in.”

Sarah Shamoon ’21, who helped organize the numerous marches around the country and spoke at the Boston march said she “stumbled into this work by accident, but just kind of fell in love with public policy engagement.”

“Youth really are the change,” Shamoon said. “We are not the future. We are the present.”

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