Stand in Solidarity with Whittier Elementary School Families!

Posted by anarchistcossack

Stand in Solidarity with Whittier Elementary School Families! Prevent CPS from spending $354,000 to demolish a field house. Stock a library for the students instead!

UPDATES:

Please visit the Whittier Parents’ Committee Facebook page for all the latest.Or contact the parents at comunidadparentwhittier@gmail.com, 773-532-4100 and 312-744-6845.

Tuesday, Sept 21

A call for 5pm door knocking went out. Please check in at the field house for more info.

Ald. Danny Solis was supposed to come around to the field house today “between 9 and 10 am” with a letter for the parents regarding their demands.  He blew off the meeting. Parents held a press conference anyway.  Shortly after, 2 vehicles from Robinette Demolition Company showed.  One person carrying a clipboard with an Engineering Survey and another person was taking pictures of the field house.  When asked, they said they were onsite to demolish the field house.  They refused to provide a card and were only willing to speak with CPS.  Community members and the media were immediately on hand. So much for Solis’s Monday night claim that there would be no demolition.

Vicente Sanchez, Solis’s Chief of Staff showed up shortly after that.  Mothers yelled to send him away. They wanted Solis.  There was a lengthy dialogue with Sanchez.

Next, a plumber with SJP showed up to survey the water and sewers.  The person told us that water was to be shut off at 3pm on Wednesday and the sewer hole plugged so demolition could be built and a great new field built.  We brought him up to speed: that he was being lied to as much as we were.  The plumber told us SJP would not cross a picket line and walked off. Thanks St. John!

Robinette also departed the scene not long after.  Minor police presence by late morning with 1-2 cars. For now the field house stands.

Monday, Sept 20, 9pm

The Whittier parents are calling on supporters to be present around 9:00 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Got a message tonight that Alderman Danny Solis was at Whittier and people were needed. When I arrived, I found Solis and a staffer surrounded in a huddle of at least 40 – 50 community members with a heated debate going on in Spanish. Some children ran about playing as the discussion went on. Solis was saying he’d offer not to demolish the fieldhouse and then they could negotiate, but the mothers said there was nothing to negotiate. They want all their demands met. It was hard to follow everything coming in late. One woman asked, “How can Daley ask every child to read when our children do not have books?”

A mother called on a boy to speak to the alderman about his experience at the school. At one point the crowd started chanting, “Mentiroso! Mentiroso!” – “Liar! Liar!” I’m not completely sure about what. The discussion continued for some time after that.

There was no police show of force tonight. Solis departed after an hour or so. Fox Chicago was the only corporate press there.

Community support was great, with more people coming as the heated discussion carried on. Solis is expected back in the morning with a letter. The Whittier parents are calling on supporters to be present around 9:00 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The Whittier parents are also calling for books and shelving for the donations. There are a couple of shelves of material and students have already been checking books out to read.

Sunday, Sept 19, 2010, 12:00 midnight.
Community members continue to support the occupation with canopies and supplies. The mood is positive. Donations of books, blankets, rope, tarps, batteries, money, playing cards, music, cups, utensils, plates are requested.

You can email the parents at comunidadparentwhittier@gmail.com

Solidaridad!

Saturday, Sept 18 – Situation calm as of 10:30 a.m.

Friday, Sept 17 4:00 p.m.

Police and CPS officials confront parents and neighbors at the Whittier Field House (image reposted from chicagobreakingnews)

Additional person power is needed now at 1900 W 23rd St. Police have cordoned off the 1900 block of 23rd St.  They are denying entry, even to neighbors who do not have ID proving they live there.

Support is needed to rally as close to the field house as possible.

This afternoon, city inspectors posted condemnation notices on the front door of the field house. Occupation continues. It is reported that police gave sit-in activists an ultimatum of arrest at the school dismissal bell. However, the crowd of parents and students at dismissal broke through the police tape and started hopping the fence into the school yard. Police were overwhelmed and dispersed without making arrests.

Friday evening was calm with schoolchildren playing in the yard. Police passed and a lieutenant stopped by to ask questions before shooting some hoops with kids and departing. Overnight a small group was holding down the fort. People continued to visit bringing food and showing solidarity with the occupation.

Thursday night, CPS officials and police threatened a forced eviction of a peaceful occupation to prevent the demolition of community space and promote the development of a school library.

Whittier Elementary School parents, students and teachers are taking action, conducting a sit-in occupation of a school field house in Pilsen.  The sit-in is part of an ongoing organizing campaign to get the field house remodeled into a library for the students.

CPS officials and police made brief visits to the site on Thursday evening.  Police ridiculously claimed parents were “taking their own children hostage” inside the field house.  CPS and police departed the school. The situation was quiet through the night.  At about 10:45 am, police surrounded the building and as of 2pm the siege continues..

According to an organizer on the site, some Whittier students have gone through all the school’s existing books with nothing new to read for book reports, projects or free reading.  Meanwhile, the nearest public library, Rudy Lozano Branch has been closed for months for repairs.  This year the city cut library hours across the city, while CPS has laid off teachers due to supposed budget shortfalls.

CPS has threatened to demolish the Whittier field house at an estimated cost of $354,000.  This money could be put into remodeling and stocking the space with books.  There is speculation among some of those present at the occupation that this is part of efforts to weaken the public Whittier in favor of expand the private Jesuit school Cristo Rey, or as a retaliation for Whittier community members vocal opposition in 2009 to a plan to insert a private UNO charter school into the public De La Cruz Middle School, in nearby Little Village.

Whittier students lack adequate reading material and have classroom overcrowding.  Cristo Rey has its own fleet of vans and a parking lot for students who drive. UNO schools also have highly paid administration and receive public tax subsidy. All this while an abandoned police station stands boarded up alongside the beleaguered public school.

A Chicago Teachers Union official was onsite sporting a Caucus of Rank and File Educators shirt.  Members of Four Star, the IWW, and STOP (Southside Together Organizing for Power), and community activists were also present alongside mothers, children, neighbors and teachers. Fences along the school yard were decorated with banners calling on CPS and Ron Huberman to keep the field house and turn it into a library.

Organizers on the site have requested solidarity in the form of people onsite as well as donations of money, food, water, blankets, etc.

Other accounts from the solidarity press:

The Siege of La Casita

Support the Occupation at Whittier Elementary

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4 thoughts on “Stand in Solidarity with Whittier Elementary School Families!

  1. anarchistcossack

    This is text from an email that’s been circulated in solidarity with the community.

    Hello:

    It is with great frustration and solidarity that I report to you the happenings taking place in the Pilsen neighborhood as I write this email (Friday 9/17/10 @ approx 3pm)

    Parents in the Pilsen neighborhood staged a sit-in to save a field house at their kids’ elementary school. The parents said Chicago Public Schools have plans to tear the field house down at Whittier Elementary to build a soccer field. The field house has been a staple of this community for providing a place for tutoring students and offering workshop and services to parents/residents.

    Right now parents, residents, and supporters are at Whittier Elementary school (1900 W 23rd St Chicago, IL 60608-4289;
    773-535-4590; http://whittierschool.org/). They are being held up inside the building without food or water. The police have closed down the surrounding block and not allowing access in or out of the building. All of the major news networks have arrived to document and “spin” this event.

    I write to you to ask you to do the following:
    1. send an email to anyone & everyone you know in Pilsen to inform them of whats going on. Ask them to go down to the school, if possible, and observe that these parents get treated fairly by chicago police.
    2. go to Whittier Elementary school to protest the closing and monitor the treatment of everyday Pilsen residents
    3. pick up the phone to call Alderman Danny Solis office to protest the closing (2439 S Oakley Ave Chicago, IL 60608; 773-523-4100; info@DannySolis.org; http://www.dannysolis.org/)
    4. call and email CPS central office to protest the closing
    5. Organize water and perishable foods as our fellow comrades and protesters are being denied food and water at this moment. If this goes on longer the lack of water/food could become a serious issue.
    6. Tweet/twitter, facebook message, my space message, instant message — HELP SPREAD THE WORD NOW

    For those of you interested in direct and instant mobilization can respond back for the contact info of the main organizer protesting the Whittier Elementary school field house closing. THIS IS NOT A PILSEN ALLIANCE SPONSORED EVENT/PROTEST.

    In Resistance & Solidarity,

  2. Rozalinda

    hi, a new facebook group is an effort for solidarity organizing with the whittier parents
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=162379610443160&ref=ts

    we are calling for organizations to sign their support — as way to give the parents committee some additional leverage when they get a meeting with the alderman or CPS.
    here is our solidarity letter, if any organizations wish to sign please email
    rborcila@yahoo.com
    or contact us via the facebook group

    The Whittier Parents’ Committee is staging a sit-in to fight against the demolition of the Whittier Dual Language School’s field house (la Casita), in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. The sit-in has been widely reported as the struggle of a community against the blind austerity cuts instituted by a cash-strapped school board. But in fact this struggle brings to light larger and more contentious issues in Chicago and nationally: control over Tax Increment Funding and the top-down reshaping of public education.

    The Whittier Parents’ Committee has been organizing for seven years to push Pilsen alderman Daniel Solis to allocate some of the estimated $1 billion in Mayor Daley’s TIF coffers to their school for a school expansion – he finally agreed to give $1.4million of TIF funds for school renovation. Cynically, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has earmarked a part of this money for the destruction of the school’s field house, which has been used for years as a center for community organizing and services. This would directly undermine the ability of the Whittier community to organize and struggle for educational rights. Parents are demanding to be part of the decision-making process.

    CPS has been conducting an extreme makeover of public education: privatization, demolitions, school closures and turnarounds, massive firings of seasoned teachers have been part of the large-scale redesign of public education. Public funds are being used to renovate schools that are privatized, while low income neighborhood schools are being starved of the most basic resources. The fight over the survival of this little field house is an important one in the larger struggles around educational rights, community self-determination and control over public land and institutions.

    We support the demands of the Whittier Parents’ Committee!
    1. Do not demolish the field house – use the same $354,000 allocated to demolish the field house to remodel the building and expand the programs offered, including a school library
    2. Work with parents and the local community instead of imposing a top-down vision for the school

  3. chromalux

    anarchistcossack,

    Thanks for the updates. Any further news?

    • anarchistcossack

      You’re welcome. Please note that UPDATES have been moved from the Comments to the main body and are being posted with the most recent news up top.

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