Monday, June 19, 2017

Day of Protest

By Stephen Wilson

"What day was it ? " and "Where do we meet ?" were the questions which sprung to
mind when I woke up this on the 12th June. A further question which should have been
asked at a deeper level is not so much 'Who is to blame ?" and "What is to be done?"
but "What are the exact aims of this protest ?" I was not alone in this confusion . A
rally against corruption had been called on the 12th of June because it coincided
against on the celebration of 'The Day of Russia'. "They can't arrest people on this
day because there is no contradiction between gathering in the city to celebrate on
this day and a protest against corruption. "it was presumed. Besides, when Navalny,
announced the place of the demonstration had been abruptly changed from the officially
approved Prospect Sakhalova to Tverskaya square and that : "Your rights are
protected under the Russian constitution and the European Convention on Human
Rights ," it did not sound convincing. An estimated 866 people were arrested in
Moscow alone.

Practically half of Russians are unaware that on the 12th June they are supposed
to celebrate 'The Day of Russia' according to a recent Levada poll. If you ask Russians
what is Navalny's political stance even more ignorance arises. Most people don't know.
Even most protesters can't offer me a straight answer other than; "he is against corruption''.
The most important point is that he is not a fascist but a relatively moderate Russian
nationalist who believes that the main cause of Russia's economic ills is due to the loss
of money via corruption. The money which could be saved on corruption could be
used to regenerate the economy assuring wider prosperity. He is center right in his politics.
When I got out of the metro station Mayakovsky the atmosphere was claustrophobic.
You had to squeeze past a never ending line of riot police and and reconstruction sites.
All the pavements from this metro to the city center were under massive construction.
As we walked on single -file past another line of people leaving in the opposite direction
we noticed hundreds of riot police were running in formation and halting along our path.
They were mainly fresh young faces who had a kind of bemused look on their face betraying
they were raw. Many wore green helmets and bullet proof vests and resembled soldiers
so much one protester asked 'Have they brought in the army?'' We were almost surrounded
by the police. I tried to take a short cut to the square but noticed every alley or road was
either a dead end or blocked by police. While doing this I encountered Monica Spibak
whom I had interviewed during the protest against Demolition. 'I warned her :"You are
likely to get arrested . It is like walking into a trap." She answered : "If I get arrested I'll
tell you all about it." You could see many buses along the way ready for the detained.
I thought they intended to arrest everyone on the demonstration.

What followed assumed a dreamlike surreal situation which was unreal. The riot
police began to arrest people shortly after 2.p.m. But who could they arrest? Most
of the protesters were not carrying placards and some people carrying flags were
celebrating 'The Day of Russia ' . The police chose the option 'Arrest and later find out'.
One man who was being escorted to a police bus by a policeman complained ; "I just
wanted to get a cup of coffee ! " It must have been an expensive cost of coffee. He
could have been fined 10,000 rubles ! The funniest incident was when a Putin supporter
came up and was being filmed by a T.V. crew. He started to complain : " Those riot
police are not doing their job. They should be arresting protesters yet they are either
letting them go by or even letting them go..... When Putin is reelected next year we
will all be better off." Just after he said those lines two Russia riot policemen grabbed him
and took him away to the police station. This example serves to indicate that the arresting
was not so much indiscriminate but inconsistently sporadic.

Reenactment groups who were dawning Viking costumes to perform on this day claimed
"Our day was ruined by this demonstration."

Not all the opposition agrees with the decision by Navalny to change the location of the
demonstration. They thought it needlessly provocative . Critics stated that very little
thought was given on how to secure the release of those arrested. Many of the families
of those arrested also face the predicament of having to pay hefty fines from 10 to
20,000 rubles or days in detention.

A maths teacher , Dmitri Bogatov who was arrested in a previous protest has had his
detention extended until the 30th June. He faces serious charges of inciting disorder
through the internet under part 3 , article 212 of the law of the Russian Federation ' and
more ludicrously of encouraging terrorism. The protest movement should take more
steps to defend his case and rethink its tactics. The aim of most opposition movements
is to avoid arrest and not to make themselves sitting ducks for the riot police.

If the government had any sense it would not arrest anyone on this demonstration.It would
let sleeping dogs lie and there would be very few, if any unpleasant scuffles or disorder.
However, every time mass arrests are made , more and more people ,feeling indignant,
join the protests. Not all the police in Russia used heavy handed tactics against the
protests . In Omsk where 3000 gathered to protest, no one was arrested. And
in Magadan where about 100 gathered, nobody faced detention at all !

In one village in the Arkhangelskaya region , seven protesters were left alone by the police
No arrests were made. In fact, the police shook hands with the protesters to show there was no ill-feeling.

Monday, June 12, 2017

HOD Meeting

CTU HOD Meeting Ends with a Thud
By Jim Vail
CTU VP Jesse Sharkey emotional outburst at the HOD meeting last week
revealed certain budgetary problems.

The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meeting last Wednesday was supposed to be focused on the budget.

Instead, the union leadership decided to begin the last meeting of the school year late so they could honor Jackie Vaughn - the hall is named after her - and pay tribute to Rep. Monique Davis -a 100 percent voting record in favor of the teachers union. 

CTU President Karen Lewis said Rep. Davis even voted against SB7 - interesting because Lewis at one point told legislators to vote in favor of SB7 which eliminated seniority rights and other bargaining items. She said they saved the right to strike, though legislators mandated teachers needed 70% to vote in favor. A push back from the membership, and resolution by the executive board against SB7 forced some changes, and confused legislators.

So the meeting on the budget started late. Many members left by the time a vote was supposed to take place. Delegate Frank McDonald asked if they have a quorum, which means are there a majority of CTU delegate in the hall to vote. 

At this point, CTU VP Jesse Sharkey erupted and shouted how could somebody call a quorum and then the union is left without a budget. It was pure sabotage to do this, he thundered. McDonald did not respond, and then Lewis asked if anyone would like to call a quorum, after Sharkey made it clear the delegates should not call a quorum. Nobody said anything.

During the debate on the budget, a few delegates had questions about the Chicago Teachers Foundation - whose budget was used to purchase the current CTU building. This was after the CTU sold the Fukes Tower for about $40 million.

Sharkey admitted had the union not used money from the foundation - not union dues - to plug a $700,000 budget deficit, then there would have been job cuts.

Another delegate asked about the union joining forces with the charters teachers union - ChiActs - and will this affect the money and time devoted to grievances and paying for lawyers for arbitration. Sharkey said field rep Joey McDermott and others devoted about $100,000 or so to help negotiate one of the charter school contracts.

Several delegates complained that the union should not cut its organizing department. According to sources, organizer Matt Luskin was moved out of the organizing department to the political department, so a vacancy was made available.

Executive board members, according to sources, argued to add another paid position to make room for another organizer. The board decided not to do this since the union has a big deficit.

At the end Sharkey yelled out that he quit. He did apologize afterwards for his outburst to delegates who said it was wrong what he did, by speaking out of turn and not addressing the delegates question about the quorum.

I believe the union leadership did not expect some good questions concerning a troubling budget.

The delegates voted in favor of the final budget.   

Saturday, June 10, 2017

School Almost Out!

By Stephen Wilson

 Moscow -- "Ooorah It is the end of school ! We are free ! No more homework ! We can do what we want!"
shout many Russian school students . You notice their beaming cheerful radiant faces looming
up everywhere . At least that is how the younger school students may feel. In contrast to
school children in Britain who can only expect around 8 weeks Summer holidays , Russian
children obtain 3 months off ! At least that is what it seems . In practice , you can find
many children are sent off to educational Summer camps or English courses abroad. Not
all children are entitled to a break . Worn out children can be noticed dozing off in classrooms.
How to bring up a new generation of docile school children who faithfully obey the state
remains a challenging issue for the government. Many children have minds of their own
and even question the powers to be . When some school children took to the streets in
protests at state corruption the government became alarmed . The speaker of the Duma,
Valentina warned : "Responsibility for taking part in unsanctioned meetings
must lie with the parents" . There was talk about drawing up new legislation carrying
legal reprisals for bringing up such children ' improperly. ' In other words, not bringing them
up to support Putin. The notion that children have a right to an opinion of their own is an
alien concept to Russian politicians. Children should not be seen and not be heard. They
should also shut up. According to the Minister of Education : "Childhood should be
non-political '. Children should be immersed in books and not discussing politics.
All those kinds of speeches actually incite children to escalate their protests. Forbidden
fruit often tastes better than freely granted food .

This year, as many as 700,000 school students graduated from school. This represented
less than 40,000 from the previous year indicating Russia is still plagued with a persistent
demographic problem. In some ways school children are more acutely perceptive of
what is going on that adults who are set in their ways. They can detect a lie better. It
is difficult to lie to children. Like the child in the Hans Christen Anderson tale , they can
see the Emperor is not wearing clothes. But they are not always free of illusions. 

According  to a recent Russian social survey , most Russian school students believe that after they
graduate from a good university they will automatically attain a job with the high pay of
80,000 rubles a month. Access to university is often equated with meeting a golden fish
who can grant every wish ! They are also attempting to enter professions which are
flooded with too many applicants : like as advocates, economists , and in finance. Very few of
them seek to enter the less prestigious and less well paid jobs in forestry , farming and
engineering where there exist greater shortages and needs. Yet after graduating from
university, 40 % of graduates in law and 20 % of economists can't find work even after
a year. You can find them working in low paid fast food restaurants and in bookshops !
Yet Russian needs more experts in fishing, farming and forestry .

If you stay in Moscow for a long time what you can't help noticing is how many
ex-journalists there are. Asked why they don't do journalism they claim it is not creative.
Perhaps the market is just flooded with too many journalists !

Maybe the government needlessly worries about controlling children. Parents already
strictly control them or are at least attempting to. A recent survey by Levada found that
32% of adults punish their children physically while 24% did this severely . As many as
54% of adults claim to check their children's letters, look at their own things and even
check their pockets for unwanted things. As many as 47% of parents admit they have the
right to forbid them from meeting their friends, and choosing who they can befriend.

The only form of freedom children are allowed is to earn money. As many as 24%
of parents put the money into the family budget. It is evidently not easy to be a Russian
school child.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Student Arrest

By Stephen Wilson
Moscow, Russia -- 'All the world's a stage' declares a character from the play of Shakespeare : 'As You Like it '. Well this is not entirely true. As this was the harsh brutal truth thrust into a boy by policemen who practically pounced on him dragging him
away without any explanation or polite inquiry . In fact , they were as tactful as
sledgehammers. What great offence had the boy committed ? He had been loudly reciting Hamlet in the Arbatskaya district of Moscow, an area notorious for attracting buskers of all sorts.

Noticing the shocked look on the boy, a woman who had been looking after him
intervened and attempted to stop the police. It never occurred to the police that
it might be more appropriate to ask the logical question : "Why are you reciting
Hamlet in the Arbatskaya ?" And this was in deed the main question which people
began to ask themselves . What is a ten year old boy doing reading poetry ? Was
he being used by parents to boost their income ? Was he a homeless boy attempting
to get by ? Or maybe he simply adored William Shakespeare !
The last explanation might not be so absurd. I have met many Russian school students
who love to quote Hamlet or have been asked to perform in school plays .
Russian affection for the poet is no secret. Boris Pasternak did great translations of his
works and a Russian Philosopher called Leon Shestov took the trouble to write a
book : 'Shakespeare and his critic Brandes. ' Shestov stated that the poet was his : "His
first master in philosophy". But that is not how the police saw Shakespeare ! Hearing
him being recited loudly evidently got on their nerves.

Although the boy was later released , the woman , Christina Skvronski has been charged
with obstructing the police from carrying out their legal duties.

When I told one of my school students of what had happened , Roman expressed disbelief:
"You are joking. How can anyone be arrested for reciting a poet? " Street musicians who
witnessed the incident see nothing wrong with the boy performing in public. In fact, the that allegations he was illegally begging do not stand up to scrutiny. Just because he
may have had an empty hat or box nearby is not suffice for him to face charges. You need
to openly ask for money to be accused of begging. The police can check or make an
investigation if they have reasonable grounds for suspicion .
The father of the boy ,who declines to be named, stated ;"The boy has problems with
his speech and can't pronounce several letters . So psychologists advised him to
recite poetry in public ". Whether the psychologists had reciting poetry in public in mind
is another matter.
This author could be arrested. I once recited a story by Chaucer in the Park of Sculpture.
However , it was done more discreetly in a garden . However , I am not ten years old. But it is strange to think that while most teachers are struggling to inspire their children with a
lively interest in Shakespeare one young boy was arrested for enthusiasm . He at least
deserves a medal!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Turkish Teacher Purge

By Jim Vail
Moscow -- "They won't allow us to leave the country , they won't allow us to work .What do they want us to do ? " stated one woman who had been dismissed from her top civil service job , " My son didn't want to go to school .The other children were picking on him saying that his mother was a terrorist and traitor", and "If
anyone wants to erase you from the institution they just give your name as a Gulenist ". Those are just a few of the disquieting remarks published in a recent report by Amnesty International , published on the 22 May . They sum up the desperate plight of so many former state employees have who have been summarily dismissed from their jobs arbitrary and with the the most abstract
reasoning of 'having connections or being in communication with terrorists".
The title of the report is 'No End in Sight .Purged Public Sector Workers Denied a Future in Turkey.'
Under decrees issued by the Turkish government following a failed coup last July in 2016, the state has embarked on a huge scale purge leading to massive redundancies. The victims are offered no concrete details of the case against them, no right to a fair trial or access to an effective appeal procedure. Once they are fired they can't obtain work even in the private sector never mind their jobs
back in the state. And forget about going abroad . The state has confiscated their passports and forbidden them from travelling !
It is perhaps no coincidence that on the same day of the publication of the report, two teachers who had been on a hunger strike against their dismissals were arrested and imprisoned. An academic ,Nuriye Gulmen , and primary school teacher Semin
Ozaksa bravely embarked on a hunger strike to protest against this injustice.
As many as 100,000 state employees have lost their jobs. Those fired include judges , doctors and as many as 15,000 educational employees. Andrew Gardner, a spokesperson for Amnesty International stated : " The shock waves of Turkey's
post-coup attempt crack down continue to devastate the lives of a vast number of people who have not only lost their jobs but have had their professional and family lives shattered. ....Tainted as terrorists and stripped of their livelihood , a large swathe
of people in Turkey are no longer able to continue in their careers and have had their alternative opportunities blocked ."One former university professor described the loss of work as tantamount to 'Civil death'. Facing an all pervasive blacklist , victims are
being forced to rely on hand outs from relatives and trade unions.
A former dismissed police officer stated : "Nobody calls me , not friends, not family. I don;t have anyone to talk to . The only people I speak to now are my brother and my mother ".
It is evidently clear from this report and other investigations , that those purges are not about a fight against terrorism or an attempt to preserve national security. On the contrary, it is a crude pretext by the ruling 'Justice and development party' to settle old scores with anyone opposed to it. This includes either teachers who go on
strikes or those people who signed a petition calling for peace negotiations with the Kurds.
Unfortunately, the response of the European International community has been too lukewarm . In fact, the European Court of Human Rights has so far rejected individual cases from Turkey on the spurious grounds that 'domestic remedies have been exhausted.'
In fact , very few of the dismissed people have been reinstated. It is not an unreasonable claim to state , that in the far majority of cases, the domestic means are spent ! The Turkish government signed 'The International Covenant on Economic , Social and cultural
Rights ',as well as an agreement with the ' International labor Organisation ' which stipulates all state employees can't be arbitrary dismissed and deprived of a livelihood. They also have the right to legal protection and a right to appeal in a court of law.
It should be the imperative task of all teachers around the world to offer moral and material support to the dismissed teachers . Organizing petitions, demonstrations and letter of protest in support of those dismissed remains an urgent necessity. One of the teachers who had been on a hunger strike protest for 75 days declared :
"We want our jobs back. We have not and will not surrender ".
We will back them up !

Sunday, May 21, 2017

No Sex on First Date?

By Stephen Wilson

Russian official would like to ban sex on first date!
MOSCOW -- On the 8th of May, a Russian minister Mizulina announced in public, her
intention to introduce a new law which would effectively ban Russians from
having sex on their first date. The purported intention is to preserve
the moral purity of the Russian people. According to a document drawn up by
two politicians , a Russian who unwittingly succumbed to their animal instincts
would face a hefty fine and if they persisted, would be subject to a prison
sentence. Special state dating agencies would be established to regulate
and keep an eye on those who had signed up . So applicants who wish to
date candidates must fill in special application forms and will be issued with
special coupons. 'Intimate relations' will only be allowed after 7 or 8 dates
which amounts to approximately 40-45 days ! Dates will be allowed to take place
in special control zones . Platonic and proper love will be encouraged.
Why do we need such strongly enforced laws ? Mizulina states that Russian
moral relationships have been tarnished by pernicious western influence.
People from the west have been coming over to Russia encouraging women to
hop into any bed on their first date. To this, many expats respond with : "We should
be so lucky".

It all sounds like an amusing joke. However, those members of the Duma have
been proposing such eccentric measures for years. Their attitude to sex reminds me
of a joke told to me in Ireland : "that the Pope is not only against sex before marriage
but after it ".The lines from children in the film "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ' come to mind
when a girl says : "If he kisses her , he will have to marry her ".

A prudish view on sex is not new here. Many years ago there was even an attempt to
ban people from kissing in the metro as it offended old people. Those proposals never
came to anything. If you watch the old Soviet films from the 1940's you will
notice how some young woman become shocked when a male dares to kiss her. The
girl is extremely shocked and either faints and runs away.

How on earth would you go about enforcing this law? Do patrol men walk up to a
dating couple who are embracing and kissing , interrupt them and ask : "Is this your
first date ? " And if they answer : "No , it is our ninth date " will he reply : "then that is
okay! Just checking ! Go ahead ! "

Did this ever happen in the Soviet Union? In fact, it did! An exhibition at a museum
featuring 'Legends of Parks In Moscow in 2015', in Moscow , informed visitors that
there were patrols of young pioneers walking around the parks who reported young couples
making love to the authorities for 'immoral behaviour'. So there was indeed such 'moral
policing' of sex in the 1930's . And at present, in Chechnya , young women who are viewed
as behaving promiscuously have been not only punished but murdered.

George Orwell's novel '1984' about a dictatorship where the state punishes people for
'Sex crime' now appears to be not so far fetched or absurd as if first appeared. Orwell's
work has proved prophetic ! So maybe if you go on a first date in Russia and your partner
suggests sex it is better to answer tactfully : "I prefer to have a cup of tea than have sex."
Just say this mantra on seven dates and on the next one you might get lucky. If you get
used to drinking Earl Grey Tea!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

NY Immigration Report

UFT Immigration Forum Report-back 
By Marjorie Stamberg
15 May 2017

About 200 people attended this forum, which was moderated by journalist Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now, formerly Daily News), and had seven panelists including representatives from the city, and Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT. The urgency of this meeting was heightened by last Thursday’s occurrence when two I.C.E. agents arrived at PS 58 in Maspeth, Queens demanding to talk to a fourth grader! The school, following the New York City and NYC Department of Education protocol, did not let them in. This was the first time I.C.E. had tried to enter NYC schools.
UFT President Mike Mulgrew introduced the event and said, we heard what happened on Thursday. We are teachers. Once a kid comes into our classroom, they are our kids. That’s who they are. We won’t stand aside when they come for our kids, we won’t let that happen. Grandstanding, of course, but useful that he said it. Mulgrew introduced Gonzalez, who chaired the meeting and introduced seven speakers we had to sit through for ages until he opened the Q&A.
First the punch-lines, details later. Most importantly, the union bureaucracy is feeling pressure to actually STOP the I.C.E. from coming into the schools, and claims it will defend those who do.
I was the last speaker. Gonzalez had clearly been warned off me, avoiding eye contact and calling on lots of others, although I sat in the front with a bright purple scarf, waving my hand around to no avail. He also kept repeating, only questions, no comments. Finally I just stood up and took the floor, and Gonzalez ceded to me. Since everyone (including Weingarten) had made a big deal about how people rushed to the airport on January 28 when Trump’s refugee and Muslim ban went into effect, I started out:
“I was at JFK airport that night, when we were all there, mobilizing and chanting ‘let them in.’ So we have formed a UFT committee at our school to support immigrant students, and this is very important. First, to Randi, talking about the danger of Trump, this is not just about the Republicans. There were five million people deported under Obama. So we have to mobilize, and on our own policy.
“I am speaking because the City and DOE policy is wrong. It is not good enough to say the I.C.E. can only come in if they have a signed judicial warrant. Because that means they can come in if they have a warrant that there is a ‘crime.’ This allows the NYPD to come in with its ‘Broken Windows’ policy. They say these are crimes, like jumping turnstiles, or sitting in a park after 10 p.m. if you are homeless. They’re criminalizing poverty, they are ‘crimes’ of racism. We need to say I.C.E. out of New York, I.C.E. out of the schools. Period.”
I thought the room would erupt with catcalls and screams, as it usually does at the UFT Delegate Assembly. Instead there was applause. I thought they would shut me down with the Obama point, but a lot of heads were nodding. And there seems to be widespread concern about the DOE/NYC policy of “they can’t come in unless…..” “What happens if they satisfy the ‘unless clause,’ what happens then? ” Several teachers and counselors came up to me asking that after the meeting, expressing support for what I had said.
After I spoke, two important indicators happened. In response to my intervention, Evelyn De Jesus, the UFT vice president for bilingual education and convenor of the forum, said the UFT is having a training in September about civil disobedience and “know your rights,” handing out fliers about that. It turns out that this reflects a policy decision.
Then, as the meeting was breaking up, Randi Weingarten took the mike and said, she knew people were leaving, but she wanted to respond to me. “Marjorie, I want to tell you there are a lot of courageous people out there. We are doing civil disobedience training. So if you want to put up a line of civil disobedience and not let I.C.E. cross it, we will defend you.” (Of course, Randi has said a lot of things over the years that she conveniently forgets later. But this might actually help us organizing if teachers hear the AFT is on record.) She went on to justify the city policy, that the city was doing what it could to put up obstacles to I.C.E. coming into the schools, etc.
Specifics about the speakers’ remarks:
Juan Gonzalez, Moderator
He said he was now a member of the AFT at Rutgers University. He retired from the NY Daily News last year and became a professor of journalism at Rutgers. He still is on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman. He said he went to Franklin K. Lane HS and his old social studies teacher is still here in the UFT (George Altomare, an old Shachtmanite).
He said that today Human Rights Watch reported that in California alone, every year there are 10,000 undocumented parents being detained whose children are U.S. citizens. He referred to the case of AustinTexas city councilman Gregorio Cesar who was arrested protesting Texas’ new law banning “sanctuary cities.” Said the sanctuary cities and the federal government were on a collision course. He said crime rates are down in sanctuary cities showing the important of “community policing” Ugh.
Nisha AgarwalCommissioner of Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs
She talked about the “success” of the NYC ID, and their work partnering with schools to “know their rights.” I called out that the NYC ID was very problematic, and the City Council panelist agreed, and said we need to discuss it. (NYC gave out IDs to about 80,000 people and kept their names on file; Staten Island right-wingers then sued to preserve the files, obviously in order to be used by I.C.E. to deport people). After Gonzalez asked about concerns that it was being used to target immigrants, Agarwal said the case was now in appeals court, but they had won the first round that the files could be destroyed. She said files are no longer being kept after the ID is issued.
Steve Choi, Executive Director, NYC Immigration Coalition
Said they were an umbrella agency for 175 organizations across the state. (The NYCIC is run by the Chinatown Democratic Party of Margaret Chin, whose core came out of the Maoist Communist Workers Party back in the day.) He wants Governor Cuomo to declare that NY is a “sanctuary state.” (Fat chance that, Cuomo is running for president!) With Trump’s infamous January 27 Muslim ban, the president has declared war on immigrants. Lawyers rushed to JFK and so did the grassroots. Now we focus on protection in the schools, because they are the most trusted and safest places, places where undocumented immigrant parents trust and will go to. Said the NYC/DOE protocol on I.C.E. not coming in without a signed judicial warrant was stronger than their first letter.
Carlos Menchaca, Chair, NYC City Council on Immigration
Said he agreed with my point about the NYC ID, and later also on the dangers of NYPD “broken windows,” and the need for discussion on these questions.
Jose Luis Perez, Deputy General Counsel, Latino Justice
This was formerly the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund. Said the feds have a big need for more agents for immigration enforcement; since they don’t have it yet, they are whipping up a climate of fear. Everywhere he goes the fear is palpable. I.C.E. says their agents are not supposed to go into the schools, churches or health care facilities. But they are emboldened, they are going into the courthouses to engage in arrests. The chief judge of NY should say we don’t want you in our courts. Other states have said this, we’re New York, we should be in the lead. Said looming collision with feds and the sanctuary cities. Said that it is probable that Trump’s threat to withhold federal funds from “sanctuary cities” is unconstitutional. Lawyers are working on this.
Tania Romero, school social worker, Flushing International High School
Immigrant dropout rate is increasing. Parents are fearful to come to school even for “know your rights” forums. They are working on education, developing curriculum and having professional development sessions on immigration issues and offering advocacy and social support. (I want to push for a schoolwide PD on immigration, as Flushing International has.) 50% of Flushing International HS is undocumented. Many Central Americans who came in under the “unaccompanied minor” category. Biggest ethnic group in the school is Chinese.
Pakistani Student from Flushing International High School
Her name is Faisa. Spoke of facing discrimination in school every day. For instance, if other kids complain about the school cafeteria food, or do something bad, nobody says it’s because of their religion, that’s them as individuals. If she complains, “it’s the Muslim girl.”
Carimer Andujar, President UndocuRutgers
A DACA “dreamer.” Importantly, she was called into I.C.E. for an interview last week. Gonzalez, who is in the AFT at Rutgers mobilized and they had scores of AFTers and others show up in court with her. This, said Gonzalez, most likely was the factor that kept Carimer from being detained.
Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers
The most political of all the speeches. Said Trump won because most people only saw him from The Apprentice. He ran as a populist, governs as a corporatist. Said 80 % of AFT members voted for Hillary. She endlessly dropped names of Democratic Party bigwigs, Schumer, Gillibrand, Pelosi etc. and how they’re supposedly resisting DeVos and Trump’s cuts.
There was Q&A, uneventful, until I got finally recognized. Two teachers came from my school, form the bilingual division on the Lower East Side (Tenzer site), Elga and Melissa.
A black UFTer came up to me afterwards, and said, well, there’s a lot of pushing of civil disobedience for next year, but she wanted UFT leadership to know that there are raids in Brooklyn every weekend. I said where exactly? She said Church Avenue. (Not sure she is distinguishing between I.C.E. and NYPD.)
Final thought: We have written that in case a student or their family is arrested for deportation, the UFT should seek to mobilize mass labor-immigrant action to protest and stop deportations. If such a case occurs, it is quite possible that there will be spontaneous high school walkouts. In that case, those of us in the union who are fighting to defend immigrants should immediately bring as many teachers and staff as possible to be with them.