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No celebration: Chicagoans protest police, schools

Two dovetailing protests will mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in Chicago on Wednesday — a march on the Board of Education by a citywide coalition of community groups at 10 a.m., and a march on City Hall demanding accountability for police killings directly afterward.

Both protests emphasize how far we still have to go to address racial inequality, and both call for the creation of elected bodies to oversee local agencies — an elected school board and an elected civilian police accountability council.

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A dozen community organizations have called for a one-day school boycott and will march on the Board of Education at 10 a.m. demanding an end to the destabilization of neighborhood schools and recognition of the human right to a safe, quality education for every child.

They are calling for an elected school board and reallocation of TIF funds to stop budget cuts.

“Our schools are still very segregated and very unequal,” said Sarah Simmons of Parents For Teachers.  Suburban and selective enrollment schools have a full range of programs while students at Dyett High School in Washington Park are forced to take art and phys ed classes online, she said.

After heavy budget cuts, Kelly High School has two art teachers for 2,700 students and no library, said Israel Munoz, a recent Kelly grad who helped organize the new Chicago Students Union and is now headed to college.

Adolphous McDowell, a longtime school activist with KOCO, places Mayor Emanuel’s educational policies in the context of the backlash against the civil rights movement — noting that we’re still struggling to fulfill the promises of Reconstruction, when newly enfranchised black legislators created public education systems in southern states where they’d never existed.

One reaction to school desegregation in the 1950s and ’60s was the shift of public funding to white-only private schools in the South; later President Reagan pushed vouchers as a way to shift public funds to private school operators, McDowell said.

All those efforts “are coming to pass with charter schools,” he said.

Wednesday’s protest is the kickoff of a 25-city campaign to stop school closings and charter expansions.

Working with the national coalition Journey for Justice, Chicago students and parents have filed civil rights complaints against CPS and testified this January at a hearing on school closings at the U.S. Department of Education.

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The local chapter of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression is leading a Peoples March on City Hall for Peace and Justice, highlighting the call for police accountability.  After gathering at the Federal Plaza at 11 a.m., they’ll march to City Hall for a 12 noon rally.

Since 2009, 70 Chicagoans have been killed by police, often in very questionable circumstances, said Ted Pearson of NAARPR.    Many police victims are shot in the back, he said.

Not a single officer has been charged for these killings, he said.

Investigations by the Independent Police Review Authority are “ineffective,” he said.  IPRA can only make recommendations to the Police Board or turn over evidence to the State’s Attorney.  “Anita Alvarez does nothing with these cases,” he said.  “She just sits on them.”

He points to the case of Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old shot by an off-duty detective in Douglas Park in March 2012.  The officer claimed a young man pointed a gun at him, but he was holding a cellphone, said Pearson.  Alvarez charged the young man — who was shot in the hand by Detective Dante Servin — with aggravated assault.  Charges were dropped when Servin failed to appear for a hearing.

Servin has not been charged and remains on the police force. This spring the City Council approved a $4.5 million settlement with Boyd’s family.

Pearson said the issue of police killings gets little mainstream attention “but in the black community it’s a hot-button issue.”

“It’s common to hear people say the police are just a gang like any other gang, the only difference is they get away with it,” he said.  “They take the law into their own hands.”

The alliance’s legislative proposal to establish an elected civilian police control board is modeled on a measure that was enacted by Berkeley, California, in the 1980s, he said.

Buses are bringing protestors from Englewood, Washington Park, Woodlawn, Lawndale, Garfield Park, Austin, Pilsen, Little Village, Hegewisch, Humboldt Park, and Rogers Park.

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Gary Younge has a new book from Chicago’s Haymarket Press on The Speech, about the background of Martin Luther King’s famous oration fifty years ago.  “The speech was profoundly and willfully misunderstood,” theologian Vincent Harding, a colleague of King’s tells Younge in an adaptation published in the Nation.

Younge points to one sentence often overlooked today — and which could serve as a rejoinder to Emanuel’s austerity agenda:  while blacks remain “on a lonely island of poverty,” King said, “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”

Don Rose, one of the Chicago organizers of the March on Washington, underscores this point in his latest Chicago Daily Observer column.  But given Wednesday’s agenda, last week’s column is also germane:

“There are so many twists and turns in Rahm Emanuel’s school plans it’s hard to figure out exactly what he has in mind—apart from wrecking the Chicago Teachers Union. He sure doesn’t seem to be helping the kids, which should be his first order of business.”

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Category: CPS, police, school closings, school funding, TIF

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