Under Caesar's stony gaze, an army of students marched on what they believed was a mission to defend civilization from a barbarous assault.
More than 300 high school students from across the Las Vegas Valley circled a statue of the Roman emperor Friday to protest funding cuts to public education. They chose the busy intersection at Caesars Palace on the Strip to draw attention to their cause.
The students wore black T-shirts instead of armor and carried signs instead of shields, but their sense of betrayal was no different from Caesar's during his assassination.
Students felt at war because the Clark County School District is anticipating a budget shortfall of $400 million next year from expected cuts in state support and declining local revenue.
"I'm out here fighting for my education," said Jaynie Connor, 16. "I don't really like what the government is doing. We should increase the taxes on the casinos, maybe that would help us out."
Ellen Spears drove her 16-year-old daughter, Savannah, and four friends to the rally. She was proud of the kids' spunk.
"For so long, society has been like sheep led to slaughter," Spears said. "It's good to see the youth taking charge of their future."
She considered the students to be fighting for the future of middle-age adults, too. "These are the people who will be feeding us oatmeal when we're in the old folks home," Spears said.
Signs taunting political leaders and flaunting the students' absence from school contributed to the anti-authoritarian mood of the rally.
Students identified themselves as "truant punks" to mock the alleged slur of a state lawmaker.
While they said they got excused absences to attend the rally, that does not mean the Clark County School District condoned their actions.
Michael Rodriguez, a district spokesman, said the position of the district is that students should be in school on a school day. It will be up to officials at the students' schools to review cases for possible violations in the compulsory school attendance law.
Students declined to identify their schools, but some wore T-shirts and sweat shirts from Desert Oasis and Palo Verde high schools. Student organizers used social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to encourage youth from across the county to show up.
Las Vegas Police Sgt. Tom Stoll complimented the students for good behavior. Students voluntarily moved to the wider sidewalks in front of the Bellagio when the intersection at Caesars Palace Drive and the Strip became too congested.
While on the Strip, students mingled with camera-toting tourists, snake handlers and Elvis impersonators. They got honks of support from stretch limos and family minivans.
James Norris, a homeless man pushing a shopping cart, said the students were learning an important lesson they might not learn in school.
"I thinking being out here is an education in itself," he said. "They're learning to stand up for themselves and know they have a voice."
Steaven Rojas, 18, said some people he encountered have students in the district and didn't even know about the budget cuts. The rally has increased awareness in the community, he said.
Rojas said he intended Friday's protest to be a show of support for teachers because their union, the Clark County Education Association, will be rallying from 1 to 3 p.m. today at Cashman Field, East Washington Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard.
Ruben Murillo, the union president, said the teachers' union and the Service Employees International Union will be protesting cuts to public education and showing support for unions' right to collective bargaining.
"We're hoping for a big turnout," he said.
Contact reporter James Haug at email@example.com or 702-374-7917.