Taking Lessons to the Streets:

Center School Students Protest Columbus


Recorder Staff

Published: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

GREENFIELD — Seventh- and eighth-grade students from the Greenfield Center School walked 2.4 miles on Monday morning to protest Columbus Day and to remember the nonviolent resistance of Mahatma Gandhi.

”We don’t think what Columbus did was right because he killed and stole from people,” said Aliza Fassler, 13, of Greenfield, while she walked on the sidewalk on Montague City Road.

Fassler said that the class decided to walk 2.4 miles to represent the 240 miles Gandhi walked across India over three weeks to protest British imperial rule. Gandhi was a major political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian independence movement, who believed in peaceful, nonviolent resistance.

The group of students are in Bob Strachota’s social studies class and wore signs over their shoulders with messages scrawled in marker and decorated by them.

Fassler’s sign said ”Columbus lied … the Tainos died” on the front and on the back ”Gandhi freed India.”

The Tainos, according to Strachota, were the indigenous group living in Hispaniola, current day Haiti, when Christopher Columbus arrived. He said that when Columbus arrived there were 250,000 Tainos on that island and, that 50 years after the arrival of Europeans, there were only 200 left.

”Within 100 years of European conquest, they were all gone,” he said.

Columbus was an Italian explorer who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, with the hope to find a route to India. He made a total of four trips to the Caribbean and South America during the years 1492-1504. The holiday is to commemorate his discovery of the Americas, although in recent years some people have instead focused on instances of brutality by him and his men in their explorations and of the European conquerors who followed.

Other signs said ”Be part of peace” and ”Gandhi walked for peace.”

This was the first year that the private school stayed open on Columbus Day, which most Franklin County children have off in observance of the holiday. Last year, they called the day ”Gandhi Day,” and had the day off.

The class had spent several days talking about both Christopher Columbus and Gandhi and took their discussions to the streets. The walk was optional for students.

”If you just talk about it in your classroom, it isn’t going to change anything,” said 13-year-old Micky Strachota while walking on the sidewalk.

Strachota said the march was a ”way to publicize what Columbus and Gandhi did.”

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