Thousands Protest Against Unprecedented Closing Of 54 Chicago Public Schools

By aaroncynic in News on Mar 28, 2013 7:00PM

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Photo Credit: Aaron Cynic

Thousands took to the streets yesterday in the Loop to protest the city’s decision to close 54 public schools. Demonstrators began to fill Daley Plaza as early as 2:30 p.m., and by the time speakers began to address the crowd at 4 p.m., the plaza was a sea of chanting students, parents, teachers and their supporters. “They are closing down schools with names of African sAmerican icon but he’ll open schools to put a living billionaire on the front,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “We have one set of schools for children who are learning to become greeters, another for children who are learning to rule the world," she added.

After a short march around the block to the LaSalle Street side of City Hall, more than 120 demonstrators sat down in groups in the middle of the street, in a planned act of civil disobedience. The demonstrators were eventually led by police from the street to a cordoned off area on the sidewalk on the West side of LaSalle where they were issued citations.

The march continued slowly through the Loop down Clark Street towards CPS headquarters, where demonstrators held another rally, saying that this was just the beginning of the fight. See our photo gallery of images from the rally.

Meanwhile, while some CPS officials remained inside looking at the throng of people crowding the street in front of their front doors. The Sun Times reports CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett issued a statement saying:

I fully support the rights of individuals to express their opinion and as a former teacher and principal who has lived through school closings, I know this is not easy for our communities. But as CEO of this district, I need to make decisions that put our children first. For too long, children at underutilized schools have been cheated of the resources they need to succeed.

The Mayor’s office said regardless of protests and objections from thousands of Chicagoans, the city will move forward with the plan to close the schools. The Chicago Tribune reports Rahm Emanuel said in a news conference, “Barbara and I met yesterday, and we'll be meeting also as we do regularly, and go through now the implementation process that's necessary to make sure that the 54 schools are ready and we are living up to the pledges we've made.” Still, opponents of the school closings say they’ll continue to fight. In a blog entry published today, Dave Stieber, a CPS teacher detained at yesterday’s rally wrote:

“It will take many more arrests, sit-ins, occupations and forms of civil disobedience to bring these school closings to a halt, but once again to quote Gandhi, 'First they (CPS) ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.' CPS and the Mayor are in a full on attack against truth and against democracy, but as we will see, truth always wins.”