Hundreds of students from across Beverly Hills Unified School District streamed into Will Rogers Memorial Park Friday morning to protest the planned construction of a subway to the Westside, which will travel under Beverly Hills High School.
Children as young as third-graders, many mugging for the cameras of dozens of media outlets, poured into the manicured park across from the Beverly Hills Hotel in droves, chanting “save our schools” and carrying signs that said “Move Over Metro” and “President Trump, Save our Students.”
School officials and students are trying to catch the attention of the Trump administration in the hopes of thwarting federal funding for the project.
Kevin Allen, principal of El Rodeo School, said about 310 of 550 of his elementary school students were scheduled to show up, along with more than 45 parents.
“We just want Metro to come back to the table and work with us,” he said. “We worry about the safety of our kids.”
Allen said today was an opportunity to teach students about what it means to be a peaceful protestor.
“Our students today are going to get a lesson on Rosa Parks,” he said.
The protest was organized by high school students with help from school administrators, who coordinated transportation to the event and offered permission slips to excuse the absences.
Students arrived on yellow school buses along Canon Drive. There were portapotties, water, and pop-up tents provided. Trees at the park were adorned in purple streamers to denote the subway project the student protesters want stopped, Metro’s Purple line.
“We should be focused on college applications, not plumes of toxic gases that will be dug out of the ground right below our feet,” said Brian Yoon, a senior at Beverly Hills High School.
As the Los Angeles Times noted in an opinion piece published today, subways travel under schools in many major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles. Metro’s subway tunnels run directly beneath schools in Koreatown and Westlake.
But a campaign led by school board president Lisa Korbatov, whose parents’ Beverly Hills home was transferred to a Trump LLC in 2008, warns that ground below the high school is “littered with abandoned oil wells and saturated with methane gas and oil.” The website “Stop the Purple Threat,” which was revealed this week to be authored by Korbatov, says that “the amount of methane gas and oil has not been adequately studied.”
Metro has published multiple studies on the subway’s potential impact and concluded that tunneling will not pose a risk to students.
Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero says that out of “an abundance of caution” the agency will continue to look for unmapped oil wells along the route before it starts to tunnel under the high school campus.
The tunnel boring machine, he says, “would not begin excavating under the high school until they are addressed in accordance with state regulations.”