Meet the man who helped pave way for student protests
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WJBK) - "I understood that we had won a rare victory," said Paul Tinkerhess.
Tinkerhess believed that at just 8 years old in Des Moines, Iowa in 1965 - and today in his hometown of Ann Arbor at 60 years old.
On Wednesday Paul Tinkerhess took a look back as students across the state and country stepped out of class for 17 minutes demanding action on gun violence -- and honoring the lives lost in Parkland, Florida.
It is actions of Tinkerhess, his siblings, and several other school children in Iowa, who spurred the US Supreme Court case affirming students' 1st-and 14th Amendments the right to free speech and expression in 1969.
Tinkerhess, whose last name was Tinker back then, and his siblings, decided to wear black arm bands in opposition to the Vietnam War.
"A black armband is a traditional sign of mourning and we thought that pretty well captured what we were feeling. It was a feeling of sadness."
But the school got wind of the youngsters' plan, had a meeting and banned the arm bands - but the kids wore them anyway.
"There are times when you need to break a rule and be willing to accept the consequences for some higher purpose."
They received suspensions. Later, the American Civil Liberties Union approached Tinkerhess' family to move forward with a lawsuit. His family quickly received backlash and even death threats.
"I was raised to believe that you really didn't do things because you expected to win," he said. "You did things because it was the right thing to do."
The suit made it to the Supreme Court proving to be a landmark case: defining the Constitutional rights of students in public schools.
"I understood that we had won a rare victory," he said.
The Tinker ruling allows students to protest without disrupting their education.Tinkerhess says he commends these kids for what they are doing.
"A lot of these things are simple enough that children get a clear enough picture to act," he said.
Tinkerhess is once again proud to look back to that moment in 1965 and to these kids today.
"By showing the adults what all of us should be doing is participating in this democracy," he said. "Affirming the parts of it we like and speaking up to change the parts that we don't."