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CPS School Closings: Protesters Block City Hall Elevators, Rally Outside

By  Ted Cox and Jackie Kostek | May 20, 2013 1:58pm | Updated on May 20, 2013 6:20pm

City Hall Protest
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DNAinfo/Jackie Kostek

DOWNTOWN — Police took two dozen people into custody after protesters against school closings blocked access to elevators at City Hall as hundreds of union marchers converged on Daley Plaza Monday afternoon.

The detained protesters were taken away from City Hall in two vans. Police said they were issued citations for trespassing and released.

The police action happened as a three-day "long march," organized under the title "Our City, Our Schools, Our Voice," wound up at Daley Plaza. It began Saturday on the South and West sides with routes that led two groups past schools slated to be closed, and resumed Monday morning.

"We are not going down without a fight," said Asean Johnson, a 9-year-old third-grader at Marcus Garvey Elementary School who rallied the crowd at Daley Plaza with cries for student safety while speaking atop a folding chair placed at the lectern.

On the third day of mass Chicago Public School marches from the north, south and west of the city a group of parents, faculty and students from Old Town's Manierre Elementary will make their way downtown in a last ditch effort to save their school.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

Chicago Teachers Union organizer Brandon Johnson, who acted as master of ceremonies, predicted Asean Johnson would be elected mayor in 2025.

"School closings," said CTU President Karen Lewis, "are child abuse."

"You haven't managed closing seven or eight schools well. Why do you think you can close 54?"

Lewis pledged to register 250,000 new voters before the next election to exert political payback against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other elected officials who have failed to halt the closings, saying, "No matter what happens on Wednesday, it is not over."

Lewis said they were waging "the real fight against the status quo," an attack on Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett's repeated statement that school closings are necessary because she cannot accept the status quo where children were being left behind by an inefficient school system.

CTU officials said they expected about 2,000 protesters at the rally. The Chicago Police Department did not issue a crowd estimate, but it appeared well in excess of 1,000.

The march was organized by the CTU and grassroots community groups, and some parents reportedly were signing their children out of school to join the march as they passed by schools.

At Daley Plaza, protesters held signs calling Emanuel an "Educational Terrorist."

"We will not allow our schools to be closed," said the Rev. Alvin Love, pastor at Lilydale Baptist Church and chairman of Parents, Educators and Clergy for Education.

"It's wrong. The whole process has been wrong," said Enrico Fermi Elementary school teacher Joshua Marburger.

Chicago Public Schools officials tried to minimize student involvement through recorded voice mails and an email from Byrd-Bennett sent to parents over the weekend.

The demonstration came ahead of Wednesday's scheduled vote on school closings by the Board of Education.

Earlier, the CTU launched the first salvo mid-afternoon when it joined the Grassroots Collaborative in delivering petitions against school closings with 10,000 signatures to Emanuel's office at City Hall.

 Protesters marched on City Hall and the Daley Center Monday in advance of a Wednesday vote to close dozens of Chicago elementary schools.
CPS School Closings.
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"We demand that the mayor act to put the families and the neighborhoods of Chicago first," said Amisha Patel, executive director of the Grassroots Collaborative.

"We are tired of not being listened to," added Kristine Mayle of CTU.

Patel and Mayle led dozens back to the ground floor of City Hall to block elevator doorways.

While police said 25 persons were ticketed, union leaders said in a statement on the CTU website that Mayle was among 23 arrested, along with "a number of teachers, parents and community activists."

An earlier CPS protest in March led to more than 100 people being detained and ticketed.