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Photos: Thousands Rally For The Teachers Union Amid Contract Fight

By aaroncynic in News on Feb 5, 2016 3:28PM

Thousands of demonstrators turned up in the Loop Thursday night to show their support for the Chicago Teacher’s Union as a potential strike over massive budget cuts, potential layoffs and a halt in pension payments in the future seems more certain.

Sixteen demonstrators were arrested prior to the start of the march inside Bank of America on LaSalle Street for sitting down inside the branch and refusing to move. On Wednesday, the union closed its account with Bank of America, moving more than $700,000 to another bank it said does not profit from interest rate swap deals they say are predatory.

“We have to make a choice—banks, or schools,” CTU President Karen Lewis told reporters as teachers and their supporters walked a blocks long picket in front of the bank.

After the crowd in front of Bank of America swelled, the union and its allies took to the streets downtown to march, briefly shutting down traffic coming into the city from the Eisenhower at Congress and Wells. With thunderous chants of “save our schools,” “Rahm Emanuel’s got to go” and “recall Rauner,” they marched through the loop, eventually converging on City Hall. Speaking before demonstrators formed a picket line around City Hall, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said:

“The Bank of America got paid and we got laid off. We got ripped off, and now we’re going to get pissed off. We’re sick and tired of being lied to, of being taken advantage of, of seeing our schools cut, and we’re going to stand up and fight back.”

On Monday, the CTU rejected a contract offer from the Board of Education, on the grounds that CPS failed to address the long term health of the public school system, the needs of students and conditions in schools. The district then announced more than $75 million in cuts.

In a statement sent to reporters Thursday, CPS reps said the school district is "committed to building a mutually respectful relationship with the CTU and working at the bargaining table around the clock so Chicago children can remain in the classroom."