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Paper Mache Schools 'Protest' Hits Millennium Park

By Darryl Holliday | May 27, 2013 2:48pm
 The "non-protest protest" was a time to relax before further school actions, organizers said.
Paper Mache Protest Hits Millennium Park
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DOWNTOWN — Parents and activists described Monday's meeting in Millennium Park as a reprieve from the high-energy actions surrounding school closings in recent weeks.

About 100 kids and their parents arrived at "The Bean" to play games and blow bubbles.

"It's a non-protest protest, just very chill," said event organizer Ellen Gradman, a visual artist and teacher of 30 years.

Gradman's influence as an artist could be seen in the laid-back event — paper mache flowers and art supplies were part of an program that also featured communal discussions focused on how kids felt about their schools closing.

"It's a time for us to breathe. A time to just be with our kids," Gradman said.

Former Stewart Elementary music teacher, Reggie Spears, was on hand to participate, despite the school's official closure and the loss of his job.

"My thoughts haven't changed," Spears said. "The closure was absolutely wrong, but we won't let them back us down."

Spears said his former students are disappointed and worried about their school transitions, but noted that the kids "didn't understand we had a chance" before the official closure list was announced, so, to them, the closure of Stewart was all too real weeks ago.

Despite his arrest last week at a South Side "die-in" in protest of school closures, activist Greg Goodman, of Occupy CPS, said Monday's event was a time for parents, teachers and students to recover before further protest in the coming weeks.

On May 15, Goodman and other activists were arrested and charged with obstructing traffic and reckless behavior when they laid down along Cottage Grove Avenue to call attention to gang lines that transferring students will have to cross when schools reopen.

"[This is] a good chance for everyone to get back together after the burn-out of last week," he said of the Millennium Park event. "It's good that this is happening in a very public part of the city."