A High School Punk Band Walks Into A CIty Council Meeting: Youth and The Free Palestine Movement

A High School Punk Band Walks Into A CIty Council Meeting: Youth and The Free Palestine Movement

By Milo Santamaria | April 2024

“The human and humanistic desire for enlightenment in emancipation is not easily deferred, despite the incredible strength of the opposition to it” – Edward Said 

“There is not a singular age where we arrive at wholeness: we are whole always” – Aiyana Goodfellow 

Over the past 7 months, I’ve attended a few Pro-Palestinian rallies and marches, both in California and in New York, but the event that felt the most impactful to me was run by high school students in my hometown of Montclair, California. 

What I’ve learned about rallies organized by young people is that they’re not just protest spaces, they’re also community spaces. Whole friend groups come out to support, it becomes a space to hang out and connect with other people. 

In early April, the high school students in my hometown threw a punk concert in the skatepark outside the city council chambers. They disrupted the city officials and the whole neighborhood blasting their guitars and drums. They formed a mosh pit, they hit their vapes, and they walked into that city council meeting with their colorful hair, band t-shirts, and skateboards in hand. 

Even though I graduated high school almost 10 years ago, and I was more of an emo kid than a punk kid, at that moment I felt at home. The youth attending this event were mostly Latinx, and working class, they dressed in baggy clothes. 

They weren’t the typical middle-class preppy white teenagers destined for ivy leagues that are acceptable to white city council officials. These kids knew that the systems in power would never serve them, and they were brave enough to speak truth to that power. 

“I just want to start off by pointing out how many high school students are here advocating for a permanent ceasefire,” one resident began her speech at the city council meeting, “You’re all lacking so much at your jobs that the high schoolers had to come out. These people are not even registered voters yet, they’re underage and they’re over here pressuring you to do your job and represent your citizens. It’s a shame that they will speak up when you will not.”

What made this demonstration in support of Palestine so powerful is that it was a collaboration between the adults and the youth. The adults in support of Palestine didn’t patronize the teenagers, they valued their perspectives, and let them take the lead. The adults understood that teens are often disenfranchised by the same people in power that enable genocide and war. 

Many young people today rightly criticize the American education system for not teaching them enough about other countries, but this is by design. It is much easier to dehumanize and justify the exploitation of communities in the Global South if we’re uneducated about their histories and the social issues that they face.

Politicians, university admins, and lobbyists have largely been able to control what we learn in schools. Youth organizing on social media threatens the influence that these institutions have. This is why bills like KOSA and nationwide book bans have become so popular. 

Youth organizing on their college campuses have begun to understand that universities are a part of the problem. Not only do universities invest in weapons manufacturers, they also prevent students from “stepping out of line” and challenging the systems of oppression colleges are built on. 

In her new book, Innocence and Corruption: an abolitionist understanding of youth oppression, seventeen-year-old British activist Aiyanna Goodfellow compares adult’s views of children to colonial views of indigenous communities and people of color. She writes, “The adult’s burden is to civilize the child.”

Western countries expect young people to fall in line, and believe the narratives they are being told by their governments. We’re taught to pursue individual success and move up the hierarchy for ourselves, but we’re not taught to think about why the hierarchy exists. 

Renowned Palestinian author and scholar Edward Said argues that prestige and success in the West are rooted in our ability to dominate others. Pro-Palestinian movements inherently disrupt this focus on our individual lives and economic success. These movements force us to remember our collective humanity. This is why so many marginalized communities such as immigrants, people of color, queer and trans people are showing up at Palestinian marches. They recognize that all of our struggles for justice are intertwined. 

In the last few months, people have been leaving their positions of power, and have been kicked out of their institutions because of their support for Palestine. People have realized that being pro-Palestinian means disrupting capitalism because so many companies and institutions use their profits in support of empire and war. 

Said writes, “Every single empire, and its official discourse has said it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and it uses forces only as a last resort.”

As Goodfellow explains, we can’t have youth liberation until children are not oppressed by colonial empires and states that prioritize profit and war over their lives. As we challenge adult supremacy, we must also challenge white supremacy and colonial powers that murder children and their families. 


Goodfellow, A. (2023). Innocence and Corruption: An Abolitionist Understanding of Youth Oppression. The Anima Print.

Said, E. W. (1978). Orientalism. Pantheon Books.

Further Reading and Resources 





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