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City And CPS Gear Up For Protests Over School Closures

By aaroncynic in News on Mar 27, 2013 4:40PM

Thousands of Chicago Public School parents, students, teachers and supporters are expected to take to the streets Wednesday afternoon to protest the city’s decision to close 54 schools. At 4 p.m., protesters will assemble in Daley Plaza for a march that will pass through the loop and later end in front of CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St.

According to a press release from Unite Here, who is cosponsoring the rally along with the Chicago Teachers Union, SEIU, the Grassroots Education Movement and other groups, at least 150 parents, workers and students will engage in civil disobedience in front of City Hall at some point during the march.

In the release, CTU President Karen Lewis said:

"Since December, CPS and its appointed utilization commission has made a show of being open to public input on their plans to close 13 percent of the schools in our district. Today will bring all the emotion and anger from those network meetings together in one place and show the entities in power what real power is.”

On Monday CPS students held a rally downtown over the school closings, as shown in the photos above. DNAinfo reports a group called Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools marched from CPS headquarters to City Hall to deliver a letter to Mayor Emanuel demanding a moratorium on the closings. Isis Hernandez, a student at Stowe Elementary, which avoided closure, said, “It's not just about my school. It's about saving all our schools…We have the same right to a decent education as a rich kid.”

In response to what could be the largest education rally in Chicago since the CTU strike in September, The Nation reports security staff at the board of education set up barricades in front of the building this morning. Chicago Public School officials also sent a memo to principals last week regarding potential acts of civil disobedience at schools on the closure list.

The memo advises principals to report names of teachers and students involved in actions, along with documenting the type of civil disobedience, which includes walk outs, sit ins and “Occupy” tactics, as well as noting which media outlets might be present. CPS officials say the memo was to provide guidance to principals should civil disobedience take place. Spokeswoman Becky Carroll said, “It's our obligation to put the safety and learning of our children before anything else.”

The anonymous source who released the information to the CTU seemed to suggest the memo was meant to intimidate protesters. In a press release from the CTU, the individual said, “They’ve asked us to do a lot of things that I’m not happy with, but some of this is going too far.” Karen Lewis echoed that sentiment, stating, “Why are they asking principals to work as agents of this administration when they are the ones who have created a climate of chaos? Civil disobedience is a direct response to unjust policies and practices."