Students at Detroit’s Catherine Ferguson Academy occupied their school for several hours after school in order to protest the proposed closure or charter school conversion of their school along with dozens of other Detroit public schools.
Agents of one of Governor Snyder’s emergency managers, Rob Bobb, appeared and gave the students a warning to leave. Snyder has authorized various “emergency managers” to reject, modify or terminate the terms of any existing contracts or collective bargaining agreements and dissolve local governing bodies of schools and cities, a move that has earned the governor accusations of seizing authoritarian-like power over his state. Bobb’s first move as an EM was to issue a layoff notice to all of Detroit’s 5,466 public school teachers.
The Catherine Ferguson protesters ignored the warning and secured themselves in the library and read their demands: no school closings, keep all Detroit schools public (no charters or privatization), reinstate all programs and services that have been eliminated, including art and music, as well as counselors and social workers, student control of curriculum and school character to assure that every Detroit school provides equal, quality education for all and no discipline or retaliation against any of the participants in the occupation.
The last demand holds particular timeliness given students in Central Islip School district were recently suspended for participating in a peaceful protest against proposed budget cuts.
As protesters marched outside in solidarity, the police arrived and arrested a dozen students. Witnesses say some protesters struggled and screamed before they were put in squad cars and hauled away.
“Police came and they’re like, ‘You’ve got to go. You’ve got to go,’ student Tiffany Baldwin said. “We just stood there and they just arrested us one by one.”
Her three-year-old daughter was there at the protest. Baldwin says she would do it all again if it meant saving the school that helped save her.
“I’m glad I took part in this. I’d do it a hundred times more to help the cause,” Baldwin said.
Some protesters claim the police brutally dragged and choked several of them. An activist named Ashley recounts her experience being choked and slammed against a police car.
All protesters were ticketed for being unauthorized persons on school property and released.
One of the teachers who participated in the protest wrote that she had never felt such solidarity as she did riding to the police station with two students who chanted for the entire ride, “Public education is a right!” By any means necessary, we will fight!” and hearing over the police radio that sixty of their supporters were on their way to meet them at the police station,
then walking out and seeing the crowd and being surrounded by students in a great group hug. It was especially encouraging to see how integrated the crowd was. As the chant goes “Black, Latino, Asian and white, for public education we will fight!” One supporter told me, “this is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re ready now.”
In townhall meltdown news, Paul Ryan was heckled by his own constituents yet again when he attempted to exit a listening session at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha. Seniors holding pre-printed signs that read “Hands Off My Medicare” greeted the congressman, chanting, “Ryan stop lying!”
“Do not renew the Bush tax credit for the wealthy,” one man said during the public comment period, even giving out his phone number in front of everyone. “I’ll debate these issues with you anytime, just call me.”