Amnesty Club students protest in NYC

CHS Amnesty Club members protesting in NYC

Some 17 students and 2 teachers from Concord High’s Amnesty Club traveled to New York City Friday, April 11, to protest international civil rights issues.

“Get on the Bus,” an annual day of civil rights activism and education for both high school and college students, was originally organized by the Amnesty International USA Group 133 from Somerville, Massachusetts.

Last week’s occasion marked the event’s 19th anniversary.

Participants from Concord included seniors Caroline Andy, Madison Stewart-Boldin, Clara Symmes, Brooke Simonton, Kate Dasey, Erika Schaper, Abby Painchaud, Bianca Bernardo and Haley Parenti, and underclassmen Jodie Simonton, Olivia Painchaud, Kate Andy, Brinkley Brown, Erin Waters, Michaella Conery and Kiersten Klose.

Advisors Jane Voth and Sara Pratt also attended as chaperones and adult activists.

Sophomore Kate Andy chants for justice

Last year, the club sent four members, including Sam Cave and Alicia Sanders-Zakre in addition to Andy and Schaper. Word of the success of the trip spread quickly and as a result others became highly interested in participating in the trip in 2014.

Stewart-Boldin, who also belongs to the Be the Change Club at CHS, stated, “I originally heard about Amnesty through Caroline. I decided to come on the trip because it seemed like a unique opportunity. Also, I’m passionate about the issues presented and believe that they are definitely worth advocating for.”

The Concord group departed Manchester with Central High School and Dublin School Amnesty members at 5 a.m. Friday. After a five-hour bus ride to the heart of New York City, New Hampshire students joined with other Amnesty school groups from the northeast region at the Great Hall of Cooper Union for a panel of presentations and guest speakers.

“Often times freed prisoners of conscious themselves speak about the widespread impact of the issues,” said Andy, a founder of CHS Amnesty. “Hearing these firsthand experiences and the passion and appreciation in their voices have been some of the most moving and eye-opening experiences for me.”

Civil rights issues of interest this year included the release of Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, held by the Chinese Government; justice for the “Trinco 5,” a student group killed in Sri Lanka; release of prisoners of conscience in Burma (Myanmar); and Justice for the people of Bhopal, India, who endured a massive chemical spill by Dow Chemical in 1984.

Erin Waters at the Indian Mission to the United Nations

At about 2:30 p.m. Friday, students gathered at Great Hall were sent off with their chaperones and Amnesty Group 133 Advisors to Dag Hammarsjjold Plaza, 1st Avenue, to protest against prisoners of conscience in Burma. With their rally signs, devoted hearts, and intense faces they chanted for justice and democracy.

For approximately three hours a group of nearly 1,500 protestors travelled the streets of Manhattan, spending about a half hour at each remaining location, including the Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at 820 2nd Avenue, the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations at 235 East 43rd Street, and the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations at 350 East 35th Street.

Students later boarded buses with sore feet and lost voices. Their spirits, however, were not unkindled.

Said Clara Symmes, a first year member of Amnesty, “I think especially in New England where the environment is predominantly white middle class, a lot of people are unaware of what’s going on in other parts of the world. When students get involved and become more informed about what’s happening in other where people are less fortunate, not only do they have a greater appreciation for their privileges but also many get excited to try and make a difference.”

Raising voice

Youthful energy and passion to help others is what laid the foundation for developing the Amnesty chapter at Concord High School.

Founding members Andy and Simonton hope  the club will continue to encourage youth activism long after their graduation in June.

“I’m glad I introduced Amnesty International to the rest of Concord High community,” stated Andy. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group to explore, highlight and take action against the world’s injustices.”