Two dozen demonstrators, including two City Council members [and members of Make the Road New York], were arrested in Downtown Manhattan Monday as they protested the proposed closing of 25 public schools that the Panel for Educational Policy will vote on this week.
Brooklyn Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Charles Barron, angered parents of students and educators were arrested for forming a human chain across Chambers Street, in front of Department of Education headquarters in Tweed Courthouse.
The arrested activists were brought to Manhattan’s 1st Police Precinct.
"We’re saying to Tweed, you can talk about shutting us down all you want. What would happen if we didn’t leave?" said Barron.
"We’re going to let you know, we’re not going take it anymore. Peace," said Williams.
"We are not stepping down, we are not giving up and we are not finished here tonight," said one parent. "We want them to sit up and pay attention and we are ready, as we said, to put our bodies on the line."
Most of the couple hundred attending the protest were high school students from the threatened schools. Organizers did not allow the youths to take part in the act of civil disobedience, but they cheered on the adults in plastic handcuffs being led away by police.
Students who attend schools on the closure list said they blame the Department of Education for their schools’ failures.
"I think the Department of Education has set up John F. Kennedy for phaseout plenty of years ago," said one attending student. "They started dumping students in that school, especially students with special needs. It’s not our fault that John F. Kennedy is below standards, it’s the Department of Education’s fault."
DOE officials said that all 25 schools on the list are failing and do not have hope of turning around fast enough to justify saving. They would not comment on the rally or arrests.
This week, the Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the closures during two separate meetings at Brooklyn Technical High School. The first meeting will be on Tuesday night and the second will be on Thursday.
Last year, approximately 2,000 people showed up to a single meeting on closures, which lasted until 4:30 a.m. The panel voted to close all the schools, but a judge later stopped the city, saying officials had not followed the proper procedure.
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