Members of the Mendocino High School girls’ basketball team in California are organizing on Monday after being banned from a tournament because of their insistence on wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts in solidarity with Eric Garner, the New York City man who died in July after police placed him in a choke hold, USA Today reports.
According to the site, the girls are planning the peaceful demonstration to proclaim their right to free speech as well as to protest racism and police brutality. Members of the team are planning to meet outside Fort Bragg High School, whose athletic director announced that neither the girls’ nor boys’ teams from Mendocino would be permitted to play in the three-day tournament hosted by the school, out of fear that students would continue to wear the “I Can’t Breathe” shirts they’d been wearing during warm-ups.
The boys’ team was allowed back into the tournament after its players, with the exception of one, promised not to wear the shirts. Not enough members of the girls’ team agreed to the condition, however.
According to USA Today, Fort Bragg Principal Rebecca Walker issued a statement on Friday saying that school officials respected the teams “for paying attention to what is going on around in the world around them,” but were still prohibiting the shirts for security reasons.
“To protect the safety and well-being of all tournament participants it is necessary to ensure that all political statements and/or protests are kept away from this tournament,” the principal wrote in her statement, indicating that she was also speaking for the athletic director and the school superintendent. “We are a small school district that simply does not have the resources to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff, students and guests at the tournament should someone get upset and choose to act out.”
Read more at USA Today.