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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.

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Subliminal message: Rahm lost

Mayor Emanuel “knows he lost” in the recent showdown with the teachers union “and finds it necessary to rehabilitate himself,” political analyst Don Rose told Newstips last week.

That’s his take on the TV ad blitz by an arm of Democrats for Education Reform – which has cost “an astronomical amount of money,” according to a campaign finance analyst.

With only 19 percent thinking he handled the situation well – “the first time the mayor has been upside down in any polling” – Emanuel “believes he needs damage control,” Rose writes in a letter to the Sun-Times on Tuesday.

“What is most distressing,” Rose writes, is that Emanuel accepts financing “from anti-union advocacy groups whose acknowledged goal is the destruction of teachers unions and the eventual breakup of public education itself.”

Rose, who advised the firefighters union around the time of their 1980 strike against Mayor Jane Byrne, concludes: “We have not seen the end of union-busting tactics emanating from the fifth floor of City Hall.”

As noted here last week, DFER was founded by billionaire hedge-fund traders who like charter schools and hate teachers unions.  “National donors” funded the group’s recent expansion into Illinois, according to Catalyst; funding is now said to be a combination of local and national money, though DFER wouldn’t discuss who its donors are.

Previously the group ran radio ads criticizing the union’s decision to hold a strike vote, then calling on CTU to “get back to the table” – while negotiations were underway continuously.  “If you listened to a DFER radio ad, you would have thought CTU pulled out of negotiations,” Raise Your Hand points out.  The group ran TV ads throughout the strike.

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Featuring Emanuel himself, the newest ad campaign works less to boost the corporate school reform agenda than to buff the mayor’s tarnished image.

It’s a symptom of the post-Citizens United political landscape and of the vastly expensive “24/7, 365-day campaign cycle” that’s resulted, said David Morrison of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

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Chicago 1968

A group of young activists and artists is planning to stage a reenactment of  Chicago’s 1968 Democratic National Convention demonstrations — minus the violence — tonight, Thursday, August 28, at 5 p.m.

Organizers have located transcripts of speeches and performances by the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Tom Hayden, William Burroughs, Jean Genet, Abbie Hoffman, and Bobby Seale, and participants will deliver them, with musicians recreating Chicago ’68 performances by the MC5, Phil Ochs, and Peter, Paul and Mary.  Veterans of ’68 including Don Rose and Tom Palazollo will give remarks.

In their own reenactment of 40 years ago, the city has declined to give the event a permit; they’ll gather anyway at Balbo and Columbus.

Elsewhere, Monroe Anderson recalls being the one of the first journalists attacked by police in 1968, and Laura Washington interviews Don Rose and Marilyn Katz for In These Times; she asks if there’s anything they would have done differently:

Rose:  “The only thing in retrospect is, it would have been better to have teased out some of the police spies in our own organization.  As it turned out…much of the violence [by demonstrators] was perpetrated by police moles.  I suppose if we’d been more vigilant about who might be the moles and traitors among us, it might have been different.”

Katz:  “I regret nothing…. If there was a mistake in 1968, it was by the Democratic Party.  If they had embraced the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, they would have won.  It was not the demonstrators that caused the failure of the Democratic Party to win, it was the failure of the Democratic Party to look at the emerging movements and know that was where their future was.  That failure…has hamstrung the Democratic Party from that moment until today.”

Meanwhile, Rick Perlstein‘s new book “Nixonland” has a couple chapters on the ’68 convention — particularly good on the abuse of antiwar delegates inside the convention (their signs and literature weren’t allowed in; at one point Chicago police actually entered the convention to eject an antiwar delegate) and how the whole thing looked to television viewers in their homes.

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