Marching on the Westside
By Jim Vail
May 20, 2013
Two days of intense heat did not deter a spirited march on the west side to protest the closure of 54 schools that will be voted on at the Chicago Board of Education meeting this Wednesday, May 22, 2013.
It began for this reporter at Lafayette Elementary School on Augusta Ave., a few blocks east of Western Ave. After a series of opening, fiery speeches, including one by freshly re-elected Chicago Teachers Union VP Jesse Sharkey, the crowd of roughly 250 people then heard the fabulous Lafayette orchestra perform. Several comments were heard in the crowd that they were surprised how well these kids played.
Then the march began, going from closing school to closing school. The CTU planned the march well, providing lunch and water at pit stops along the way.
Spirits were high, and people felt a sense of unity in the fight.
However, the fact that there were less than 400 people marching on the west side, where the school closures will affect around 10,000 people at least, who either live or work in the community, was a bit disturbing.
Many in the crowd included seasoned activists from the International Socialist Organization or ISO, Action Now, SEIU union organizers and CTU employees.
The fact that a bigger contingent from the closing schools did not show up could be due to the fact that people once again feel defeated, and a sense of hopelessness that a done deal is once again right around the corner.
Interestingly enough, the Chicago Tribune's Spanish language Hoy newspaper reported today that many people are satisfied with the job President Obama is doing. Could that be due to the fact people feel utterly dejected and disappointed, and only those who decided to answer the question think he must be better than those republicans.
Anyway, as I walked along the streets on the west side, we noticed several homes with a big red X marked on them. In fact, one building that looked like a row of about 10 units of Chicago public housing were being demolished. Foreclosures due to the subprime debacle - thanks to financial sharks like Penny Pritzker who provided these loans - and boarded up buildings, were everywhere.
Alderman Joe Moreno - or Proc Joe as some affectionately call him - joined the rally in a white t-shirt and baseball cap. One marcher called out to him, mistaking him for another friend.
Secondcityteacher caught up with Ald. Moreno, and asked him what his thoughts on the school closings were.
He noted that if the deals go through, there will be grids in the city that have almost entirely eradicted neighborhood public schools. The area between Western and Cicero Avenues from the east to the west, and Jackson to Roosevelt Avenues from north to south, will be down to about 2 public schools (I may be wrong on the exact streets, but the approximate area is what to keep in mind as part of the privatization of public schools strategy in real estate).
Ald. Moreno told Secondcityteacher he is totally against the school closings, and that he was fighting moving Duprey and Von Humboldt to Diego in his ward, as well keeping Lafayette open in his old ward.
He noted that the kids would be moving from good schools to a school that is on probation. It would also be the Duprey kids second move in the last five years; they had to move when their old building was leased out to a charter school a few years ago.
Moreno also said the mayor is not too happy with him now (but of course Joe is not known for his independence in city hall). He said he also signed on to the charter school moratorium.
But, I asked, why did people then boo him at the school closing hearing in Logan Square when the board first proposed closing 129 schools.
Morena shook his head and said that was the Occupy people, lambasting him for speaking out against the teachers strike last September when several alderman called on the CTU to quickly negotiate and settle.
He said it stemmed from when he went on Fox news to debate a conservative, and Proc Joe was going to be the "progressive" or liberal on the other side. The conservative lambasted the Chicago Public Schools, saying how so many students drop out and the schools are terrible.
Ald. Joe said he defended the schools, adding that the conditions are very difficult, but the teachers are doing a hell of a job. He did say the strike should end quickly and the teachers get back to work teaching, which led to the fiery denunciation at the hearing in Logan Square.
Many people honked, waved and cheered on the west side as we marched on the right side of the street.
However, I'm afraid it's going to take a lot more of this, and lot, lot, lot more of us to repudiate the decrees coming out of the White House, Springfield, City Hall and the Board of Education, where public officials like Proc Joe are getting their orders from the business class hell bent on destroying the teachers union and decent working conditions for its members.