St. James students take place in state-wide walkouts against racial injustice

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

On Monday at 1:00 p.m., around 40 St. James Middle/High School students participated in the state-wide walkouts against racial injustice.

The students gathered inside the hallway just outside the St. James Event Center and held a moment of silence for Daunte Wright, who was killed by police on April 11.

"We're not going to say this is a wake-up call. We're not going to say George Floyd was a wake-up call. This alarm has been ringing forever," said senior Gabriela Trapero. "I feel like everybody here wants to make a difference in our society at this moment."

Trapero also made her voice known over the course of the gymnastics season, kneeling for the national anthem alongside her sister Daniela, and teammate Ruby Zamora.

"This is something that I truly believe in and it is something that I hold dear to my heart," said Trapero. "I think it's something that should be talked about on the regular, we have to have those uncomfortable conversations with people."

Students discussed at length the topic of police brutality, racial discrimination, and white privilege, with some students sharing stories of themselves or loved ones being the victims of police violence. Some who shared stories broke down in tears upon telling the stories, which also visibly impacted others. 

"Many people shared stories of how loved ones were approached by members of the police force and were scared which really gave everyone here a clearer view of the problem," said Nick Brey, a member of the Social Justice Club at St. James High School.

The group of students also discussed the death of Adam Toledo, a 13-year old boy from Chicago who was killed by police on March 29.

"It sucks knowing that there's a list, and it sucks that the list keeps getting added on to every single day," said Trapero.

Jordan Bergeman, daughter of Watonwan County Sheriff Jared Bergeman, was also in attendance.

"I want to see the side of the cops, and I want to see the sides of any victim to any violence, whether you're black, white, or anything," said Bergeman. "It's so hard to hear that you fear the cops because that's my father. It genuinely makes me so sad that it's still a fear between people, and that it's a fear between one race and another and one job over another. It hurts. It does.

"And me, as a white person, my dad is a cop, I can genuinely say that I don't fear the cops here, and that hurts me because it hurts you," continued Bergeman, speaking to a classmate that shared a story of police violence. 

Bergeman also has an uncle who is a Minnesota State Trooper.

"I participated in the walkout not only as a part of the Social Justice Club at the high school but as an ally for people of color," said Brey. "The walkout signifies one of the next big steps—if not the first—at tackling racial inequities in our state...  It was such a unifying experience. I got to see students in the school come together in a way and for a cause that I haven't really seen any other time."

"When people starting showing up I was like 'woah, this is way more than I expected'," said Trapero. "When everybody started sharing their stories it was heartwarming to know we all want justice in this society and we are all on the same page where we want police brutality and the justice system to be fixed."