While Hollywood actor Danny Trejo blamed racial tensions for a massive brawl at Sylmar High School earlier this week, hundreds of students feel differently.
The students walked out of class Thursday morning to hold a “peace rally” after video of the fight, involving dozens of students at the school, went viral online earlier this week.
Students locked arms, held placards and chanted, “It’s not about race” in the impromptu rally at the predominantly Latino San Fernando Valley high school, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“We’re not doing this out of defiance,” senior Luis Abundez told the paper. “We’re doing this out of unity. We want everybody to know that this little incident that happened at our school doesn’t define Sylmar High School.”
— mollenbeck (@amollenbeckKFI) May 12, 2016
— Brittny Mejia (@brittny_mejia) May 12, 2016
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) May 12, 2016
Monday’s brawl was captured on video by bystanders with cellphones and quickly sparked speculation that gangs and racial tension had set off the fight. According to the latest figures from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2,157 students at Sylmar High School are Latino, while just 72 are black, 44 are white and 30 are Asian or Pacific Islander.
At a school safety meeting Wednesday night, Trejo, the Mexican-American star, contended that racial tension in Sylmar was the cause of the brawl.
“There is a race problem. Your heads are in the sand,” the actor told school board administrators at the meeting, according to NBC Los Angeles journalist Beverly White.
But students at Thursday’s peace rally dismissed Trejo’s assertion that race was the primary factor.
“It was no race war, nothing like that,” senior Sebastien Cooks told the Los Angeles Times. “It was a typical fight. Sylmar is a good school.”
There were reportedly no major injuries after Monday’s brawl, though several students were left bloodied and bruised. Police have not yet determined or announced what caused the fight, which is believed to have started at a school prom over the weekend before Monday’s violence.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum