ROGERS PARK — Hundreds of people marched to Ald. Joe Moore's North Side doorstep Sunday night, asking him to publicly denounce charter schools.
The 49th Ward alderman wasn't home, but that didn't stop the marchers from planting 582 yellow flags — one for each student at Gale Elementary School — in his front lawn and in flower pots on his porch.
The group began its march after a public meeting at the Willye B. White Park fieldhouse gym, where protesters discussed issues including charter schools, corporate tax loopholes and a recent decision by Loyola University to increase the price of student meal plans.
"I didn't attend the meeting tonight because I was out of town on a previously scheduled trip," said Moore, who was in Washington D.C. at a conference when reached late Sunday. "I'm very confident that very few of the protesters who descended on my home this evening were parents of children in 49th Ward schools."
Moore said he supports a temporary moratorium on charter schools for the next school year, but wouldn't resist a qualified charter from opening in the neighborhood.
"Why shouldn't low-income families in my neighborhood have the same kind of educational options for their kids that middle- and upper-income families enjoy?" he said.
At a public meeting in February at Gale, which was taken off the list of schools threatened with closure, Moore said "there are no options" for some parents looking for quality education for their children in Rogers Park.
"From the standpoint of an alderman ... I'm not going to turn anybody away that can provide those options," he said, referring to charters.
On Sunday, he touted the Chicago Math and Science Academy as a highly acclaimed school with a long waiting list.
"So clearly there are families in my neighborhood who are looking for another educational option for their children," he said.
The protesters, spanning blocks on their march to Moore's home, crowded his front porch and chanted, "Beat back the charter attack" and "Save our schools."
After planting the yellow flags, the protesters marched back to where it all began, the fieldhouse gym.
Organizers with activist group Northside POWER said 572 people signed in before the rally at tables in the fieldhouse lobby.
"The action went extremely well," said Cindy Bush, the group's director of organizing. "It's unfortunate the alderman" wasn't here.
"I think Ald. Moore does need to get the message that people really do care about the public schools in the 49th Ward and don't appreciate the charters taking resources away," said Steve Serikaku, who has organized with other Rogers Park residents to keep the neighborhood's schools open.
Other public officials were in attendance, including State Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Rep. Robyn Gabel.
The officials were asked publicly to oppose corporate tax loopholes in Illinois, like an offshore drilling tax credit. They obliged.
About 75 Loyola University students also attended the meeting to protest a hike in meal plan costs set for next year.
The meal plan is "really expensive for next year. The meal plan costs more than what my mom makes in a month," said freshman Zac Angel, who spoke at the rally.
Junior Hannah Ramlo, 20, who was riding a Red Line train back to campus, said she attended the rally and "supports the cause" of the protesters, but was "taken aback with people lining the [alderman's] porch."