A protest Monday evening in Roswell wasn’t so much about the governor as it was for the children, one of its organizers said.
“It’s not about her,” Roswell High School head football coach Jeff Lynn told the crowd of a few hundred people gathered in the Wool Bowl parking lot, referring to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
“It’s about showing our kids their importance. It’s about showing our kids that we’ll stand up for them and that we love them,” Lynn said as the applause and cheers from the crowd grew louder.
The event was billed as a peaceful protest against the ban on school and sports and featured parents, a student, and state and local officials as speakers. Similar protests took place throughout the day in Artesia, Hobbs, Livingston and Carlsbad, with people from Artesia joining in the Roswell protest. Over the weekend, protests occurred in Albuquerque and Santa Fe as well.
Several speakers, however, took the opportunity to criticize or address Lujan Grisham and the state’s health orders that have so far kept Chaves County schools from allowing students back in the classroom and prohibit competitive sports, which were scheduled to start earlier this month with volleyball, cross country and golf.
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“Kids all over the United States are playing sports and other extracurricular activities, and they’re doing so in a safe manner. They’re practicing COVID-safe practices while our kids in southeastern New Mexico are not being given that same opportunity,” parent Emily Grant said.
Grant also was an organizer of a peaceful protest against school closures last week at the Roswell Independent School District offices.
“They’re feeling stress, anxiety, depression, isolation and they’re feeling helpless. Madam governor, listen to us. We need to start taking our kids back into school, back into sports. We need to learn to live with this virus and handle it safely,” Grant said.
Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, also took the stage, telling the crowd their protest will have more effect on the governor than the efforts he and other legislators have taken.
“This will have more impact than anything that we’ve done as your so-called voices in Santa Fe because the governor has not listened one bit to us. But I’m hopeful that this effort, the effort in Artesia this morning, the effort in Albuquerque on Saturday, and continuing, that the young people in this state are rising up and pushing back on policies that make no sense,” Nibert said.
He called a member of the crowd, Veronica Rodriguez, to the front of the stage to hold her sign as the crowd chanted the slogan written on it, “Let them play.”
“Let’s hope the governor will come to her senses and not only let you play, but as stated earlier, let you get back to a more normal routine, let you go to school because your education is essential for you to compete in this world-global basis,” Nibert said.
Parent Tierny Krasowsky spoke of the negative impacts remote learning and the ban on sports are causing students.
“We are destroying chances of a brighter future for our youth and maliciously robbing them of years and experiences they will never get back,” she said.
“Teachers don’t just give students information. That’s not all they do. Some of these teachers are the only emotional support system that these children have,” Krasowsky said, getting applause.
“And coaches don’t just teach your kids how to throw a ball or how to jump and hit a ball over a net,” she said. “These coaches, they instill discipline, they instill focus and determination and reinforce the idea that their athletes are overcomers and have the ability to do more than they ever thought possible. And I can tell you firsthand that teachers and coaches save lives,” she said.
Roswell High School senior Raquel Gonzales said she misses being able to have face-to-face communication with her teachers and that coaches are taking COVID-19 practices seriously.
“We are doing everything we can to abide by the rules that is being set for us, and I don’t understand why we can’t play. We’re doing everything we can,” Gonzales said.
Several Goddard High School students spoke with the Roswell Daily Record after the protest about the opportunities they believe they are missing in not playing sports and attending school in person.
“It’s my senior year and I feel like I’m missing out,” Jadin Ware, a member of the girls’ golf team said.
Ware said she is hoping to go to a college in Georgia, but recruiters pay attention to tournament scores. She said she’s concerned she will miss out on scholarships because she can’t compete.
“This is costing us our future,” Maycie Henington, who is on the Goddard tennis team, said.
“It’s taking a huge toll,” said Hallie Munson, a member of the Goddard volleyball team.
She said not being able to practice with the whole team is like losing her family.
Munson said she is also a member of Goddard’s Future Farmers of America, and when schools were shut down in the spring, judging contests were canceled and seniors missed out on scholarship opportunities from them.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or email@example.com.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.