In one week in the spring of 2006 more than 100,000 students walked out of schools all across America to protest the threat of H.R. 4437 to immigrants. Drawing on 50 interviews with students, educators, and community activists involved in 11 walkouts across five Texas metropolitan areas, we reconstruct the lived experience of these spontaneous protests. We identify three tightly interrelated aspects of a social and psychological process shaping these protests: the relationship between political threat and telescoping anxiety; the role of defiance and its emotion-switching effect; and the emergent and situational nature of the walkouts. We argue that the collective psychological process of telescoping anxiety punctuated by the situational thrill of defiance is indispensable in explaining these massive, far-flung, and spontaneous protests.
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