DOWNTOWN — The Chicago Teachers Union on Wednesday further distanced itself from controversial remarks made against police at a rally held after the teachers one-day walkout last week.
Assata's Daughters co-founder Page May has been the target of death threats and racial slurs since she screamed "F--- the Police!" and made other polarizing comments at the rally at the Thompson Center Friday after a daylong teachers strike.
Teachers union Vice President Jesse Sharkey sent members an email Wednesday saying officials regretted the comments — although he stopped short of issuing an apology and declared the rally overall a success.
"Although one speaker went off message and condemned police in a way that our Union does not condone, and we regret what was said, the rally was a resounding success," Sharkey wrote. "We hope that this unexpected incident, which could not be predicted, does not obscure the tremendous power and momentum we created on April 1. The fact is that our expanding coalition will increase our chances to win progressive revenue and governance reforms before the summer and into the fall."
Earlier, union president Karen Lewis, who spoke before May and praised police, tweeted her disapproval of May's comments. And at least one school posted a message on Facebook asking people to email Lewis and Sharkey to express their unhappiness with the comments.
But May's fellow activists and friends — and another teachers union official — all came to her defense Wednesday.
Activist Monica Trinidad said that she was so shocked to see the comments made about May — a private school teacher — that she tweeted a drawing calling her a "freedom fighter."
"Seeing her being harassed with awful racial slurs, people wishing harm and death upon her, and people putting her personal contact information all over the internet is really hard to see, and so I wanted to flood the internet with positive, supportive messages for her," Trinidad said. The Fraternal Order of Police "and their supporters, should be more concerned with the employment of a police officer who has murdered a teen rather than a sentiment that hurts their feelings."
Trinidad also agrees with May's sentiments about law enforcement.
"If we all take a deeper look at the history of police departments in this country (which many have started out as slave patrols or to protect settlers from indigenous/Native Americans), then we will slowly recognize that this was an institution never set up to protect or serve black people, brown people or indigenous people from the very beginning," she tweeted. "Police are obsolete and need to be abolished."
Damon Williams, an activist and member of Black Youth Project 100, also supported May after the backlash, along with her stance on a perceived lack of support by local labor unions, even though the teachers union actively participated in an anti-police brutality march on the Magnificent Mile the day after Thanksgiving.
"Black Women are the leaders of this movement for our lives, therefore the recent threats towards Page May both deeply concern me as well as prove the effectiveness of our messaging," Williams said. "Page, who is a teacher herself, helped expose the often concerning relationship those tasked to educate our children have with those who police and arrest our children. Her critique of the school-to-prison pipeline evoked violent, sexist and racist support for law enforcement that reinforces our beliefs about the nature of policing in this city and in this country. We support Page May, and she does not stand alone."
And Sarah Chambers, a teachers union executive board member, fired off a series of tweets after May's comments went viral:
CTU can apologize once the FOP apologizes for supporting & fundraising 100k for Van Dyke who killed our CPS student pic.twitter.com/V7f1KL77Rp— Sarah Chambers (@Sarah4Justice) April 6, 2016
Chambers said in an interview that even though May's comments didn't sit well with many union members, May has valid reasons for being angry with the police and those who support them.
"The union didn't know Page was going to say that. There were teachers at the rally who were upset. It was a reaction to what Karen [Lewis] said about the police being our allies," Chambers said. "The police union supports Jason Van Dyke by having a fundraiser and giving him a job. She has every right to be angry about what's happening in Chicago."
Police union President Dean Angelo did not respond to numerous attempts for comment, but police have called for teachers to condemn May's remarks.
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