Over 130 people were led away and ticketed by police in Chicago as thousands of teachers, parents and students protested against a decision to close 54 public schools. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has refused further negotiations, apparently making the closings a done deal.
CTU President Karen Lewis was cheered when she took the microphone at Daley Plaza late Wednesday afternoon and repeated her argument that the Chicago Public Schools' decision to close schools with predominantly African-American enrollments is racist.
"Let's not pretend that when you close schools on the South and West sides, the children affected aren't black," Lewis said. "Let's not pretend that's not racist."
In an event rife with political symbolism, the size of the crowd was anybody's guess. The official police estimate was 700 to 900 people, according to the department's news affairs office. A CTU spokeswoman said the union was "appalled" by the department's number, saying between 5,000 and 6,500 were on hand.
Those at the protest were loud but disciplined, sticking to a script the CTU provided earlier in the day in a news release. Most of the vitriol was aimed at Emanuel, with protesters carrying signs included "Rahm's brain is underutilized" and "School Closings = One Term Mayor."
127 protesters were led away peacefully by police after sitting in the street at the intersection of Washington and LaSalle outside City Hall. Their hands were behind their backs, but not handcuffed. Despite earlier warnings from CTU that the protesters would "risk arrest," police made a point of noting that 127 people were issued tickets on site, and not arrested.
The district says that the 54 schools slated for closure are "underenrolled," and need to be shut to deal with a $1 billion dollar deficit.