Mayor Rahm Emanuel said yesterday at a press conference that the time for negotiations on school closings is over. However, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), CTU President Karen Lewis, UNITE HERE Local 1, SEIU Local 1, and the Grassroots Education Movement didn’t get the message.
A rally and march was held in downtown Chicago, starting at the Daley Center, circled around Chicago City Hall and to the Chicago Board of Education. The CTU “rallied and marched in opposition to a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and mayor’s office plan for mass school closings.”
The purpose was to call on the city of Chicago and the Chicago Board of Education to stop all school closings and slow the expansion of the charter schools to focus investment in public schools, working-class families and our city’s struggling neighborhoods.
CTU President Karen Lewis repeated her assertion that the Chicago Public Schools’ decision to close schools with predominantly African-American enrollments is racist.
“Let’s not pretend that when you close schools on the South and West sides, the children affected aren’t black,” Lewis said. “Let’s not pretend that’s not racist.”
In what the CTU calls an act of “civil disobedience,” more than 127 members of the organizing unions were arrested during a sit-in in the southbound lane of LaSalle Street outside of City Hall, according to a CTU press release. However, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Chicago Police Department said that they were not arrested, but instead issued “tickets.” Among those arrested (or ticketed) were Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey and Recording Secretary, Michael Brunson.
“It is an obscene travesty for them to refer to what they’ve been doing as a civil rights movement,” said Brunson of the Board. “So now, we are going to show them what a real civil rights movement looks like, and what a real civil rights movement feels like.”
A crowd of close to 5,000—well above Chicago Police Department estimates of 700—gathered in Daley Plaza before swelling to 7,000 and marching through the streets of downtown Chicago. Throughout the march, CTU President Karen Lewis was flanked by longtime civil rights activists, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congressman Bobby Rush (D-Chicago).
Karen Lewis urged the students, teachers and families in the Daley plaza crowd to stay strong in the face of school closings and pledged union support from the streets to the court of law. Lewis also sent a message to the thousands of students that CPS is attempting to displace.
Karen Lewis urged parents to not accept the school closings with another act of disobedience. “On the first day of school, you show up at your real school. Don’t let these people take your school!”
John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African American studies, published by The Elevator Group, Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books. John has volunteered for many political campaigns.