SOUTH SHORE — Mayor Rahm Emanuel's second of three citywide public budget forums descended in chaos Wednesday night when Dyett High School protesters took the stage, and police had to hustle the mayor off the stage.
Just over an hour into the hearing at the South Shore Cultural Center, Emanuel was rushed out by Chicago Police, including Supt. Garry McCarthy, after protesters rushed the stage chanting that they wanted an answer from the mayor on Dyett, "Right now!"
The meeting did not resume.
The mayor has been collecting public feedback on ideas to trim costs and raise revenues ahead of his 2016 budget address Sept. 22, when he'll submit his proposed budget to the City Council.
"The mayor hopes to hear fiscally responsible solutions from residents," mayoral spokeswoman Lauren Huffman said, "and all ideas are welcome and encouraged."
Yet the public hearings have been entangled in the ongoing standoff over Dyett High School, and that persisted Wednesday, with Dyett protesters chanting, "We are all Dyett" and "We want Dyett," even before the forum began.
Ted Cox discusses the mayor's exit from the meeting:
Chicago Park District Board Vice President Avis LaVelle acted as moderator and urged the audience to "please show some respect for one another" and to stick to the city budget, not sibling agencies like Chicago Public Schools, but the request went largely unheeded.
One speaker broke into a chant of "Save Dyett!" that disrupted the forum for minutes.
Another speaker ceded a minute of time to Dyett hunger striker Rev. Robert Jones, who said Emanuel had promised action on the school within 48 hours after they met at the close of Monday's budget forum at Malcolm X College. Jones said no action had followed.
"We're gonna make absolutely sure that the plan for Dyett comes from Bronzeville," Jones said.
After he talked, much of the crowd broke into a chant, "Bronzeville has spoken."
Mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn later countered that the group had not been given any set time commitment to address the matter. "I can tell you that they were told an answer would come soon," Quinn said. "No time frame was given."
Later, they chanted that they wanted a response from the mayor, "Right now!" Protesters took the stage as they chanted, and after a few minutes where they held the stage together, Emanuel was ushered out by police.
Police Supt. McCarthy was on stage and appeared to call for the mayor to be moved.
"It is unfortunate that everyone's voice could not be heard tonight after some attendees disrupted the forum, causing it to end early," Quinn said. "The moderator and the mayor made a number of attempts to restart and finish the forum, and offered to meet with demonstrators tonight, however, those attempts were unsuccessful."
Quinn added, "We are committed to this process, and to ensuring residents have a voice in this budget, and we are looking forward to the final budget forum [Thursday] evening."
Quinn cited positive suggestions made earlier, when others suggested the city invest in child care or violence prevention, or that the mayor "tax the rich," or hold the line on property taxes. Tom Tresser, of the TIF Illumination Project, called for the city to have a complete audit of the Tax Increment Finance district, saying, "We want an honest account for that money."
Others asked why they were paying for parking at city parks, with Emanuel blaming that on the infamous parking-meter deal put forth by his predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Yet Dyett dominated, and in the end caused the forum to be shut down.
Monday's first public hearing on the city's 2016 budget was likewise dominated by protesters, many of them advocating for the Dyett High School hunger strikers, now in their 17th day of a protest fast trying to get Chicago Public Schools to reopen the school next year as Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School.
The protests made such an impression that Emanuel agreed to meet with the Dyett hunger strikers at the end of Monday's hearing, but they made no breakthrough in talks and the protest fast continued into its third week.
Several of the Dyett hunger strikers were again in attendance Wednesday.
"The mayor did not tell us we would have Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School, and until such time we will continue our hunger strike," Cathy Dale, one of the dozen Dyett hunger strikers, said Wednesday at City Hall.
"Forrest Claypool said the board is working on it, and they're gonna move as fast as they can," Dale added.
The hunger strikers also took their campaign on the road to the nation's capital Thursday, with Jitu Brown and April Stogner delivering a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, former head of Chicago Public Schools, asking him to intervene in the process.
The final public budget hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Wright City College, 4300 N. Narragansett Ave.
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