Protesters block downtown streets over school closings ~ Sun Times

by Lauren FitzPatrick  and Mitch Dudek

[...] Protesters descended en masse onto Daley Plaza Wednesday to denounce a historic number of schools closing, mainly on Chicago’s South and West Sides, an act that resulted in more than 100 protesters removed and ticketed.

Last week, schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced she wanted to close 54 schools and 61 school buildings come June. Wednesday morning, Mayor Rahm Emanuel held his ground, saying the consolidation is necessary and is going to happen.

The mayor called it intolerable that a school system with a 61 percent graduation rate for all students, graduates just 45 percent of black males.

“I understand and appreciate the difficulty. But, locking kids into a….school that, year-in and year-out, is failing their full potential — is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable to those children and unacceptable to this city,” he said.

Wednesday afternoon, thousands of people and several unions said they would not yet give up on the closings that will affect 30,000 students and 1,000 teachers.

As some protesters pounded on drums, hundreds of signs bobbed over heads clad in winter hats.

A Chicago flag with a teacher’s twist — fourred apples instead of stars — fluttered overhead.

One man donned a gas mask because, he said, Emanuel’s decision “really stinks.”


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