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Protesters sit in outside the mayor's office

By Paul Socolar on Mar 5, 2013 04:35 PM

[Updated 7:55 p.m.]

A group of about 20 opponents of the School District's closings plan staged a four-hour sit-in outside the mayor's office on the second floor of City Hall this afternoon, after a meeting with Mayor Nutter. The protesters were escorted out of the building at about 7:40 p.m. after police ordered the hallway cleared. There were no arrests.

The protest included members of Action United, the NAACP, Parents United for Public Education, and PCAPS (Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools). A larger crowd protesting in opposition to the closings gathered outside City Hall.

The groups are criticizing the mayor's support for the District's plan to close 29 schools. Action United set up a livestream of the sit-in.

City police blocked off the corridor where the protest was taking place. Craig Robbins, director of Action United, who was part of the sit-in, was reached by phone. He reported that a group met with the mayor at 2:15 p.m, including these groups and two members of a clergy coalition, and laid out the argument for a one-year moratorium on school closings. "We also asked him to be more aggressive in fighting for more funding for the schools," Robbins said.

According to Robbins, "We didn't get very far. ... The mayor said parents are voting with their feet and leaving schools, and this is what we have to do."

Robbins said that after the 45-minute meeting, the group left the office, met with supporters, and the sit-in began.

Afterwards, Robbins said he thought that while the mayor didn't budge, the protest had succeeded in making its point: "Mayor Nutter is the most powerful person in Philadelphia on this issue. And his leadership for schools is absent."

Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said during the sit-in that the mayor "is conducting his business" and the protest is not interfering with that. He reiterated the mayor's support for the closings. "His view is that the superintendent went through a very complicated issue in a very thorough and methodical way and listened to the community ... and revised his plan. The mayor is fully supportive of that proposal."

Update: At 6:15 p.m., the protesters said they had been warned by police that they would have to leave City Hall or they would be removed. They said they are not planning to leave of their own accord. As of 7:30 p.m., the demonstrators - now numbering about 15 - were still in place. Protesters said that media have been denied access to the corridor where they are camped out. One TV crew did gain access to the protest.

Among those participating in the sit-in were J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia NAACP, and Parents United co-founder Helen Gym (disclosure: Gym is a member of the Notebook's leadership board).

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Comments (10)

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 5, 2013 5:32 pm
"Parents are voting with their feet" is a joke. The Public Schools are being starved deliberately to force parents to seek alternative placement. It's hardly a level playing field or a real choice in any traditional way and that's why it's so horribly unfair. Nutter knows full well that the kids who will be left behind for the prison system are poor children of color for the very most part. But hey, they're not his kids so who cares?
Submitted by Jim (not verified) on March 5, 2013 6:45 pm
Wake up, people!!! This is what real-life AUSTERITY looks like. Schools are shut down and other services abolished or cut to the bone. The 1% crowd who runs things with their money power DO NOT CARE about your family and its future. This is just the beginning, so you better get organized to fight back
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 5, 2013 6:15 pm
Agreed !!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 5, 2013 7:42 pm
It's not the 1% vs. the 99%. It's the middle class vs. the poor. The middle class left the cities and have no interest in funding education or services for the poor. We can't pretend this is only a few controlling the many. If you weren't born into relative privilege then you have no chance in America.
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on March 5, 2013 6:30 pm
Thank you! Thank you! Nutter needs to remember that people are voting with their feet - they are leaving Philadelphia! Nutter's legacy will be a sharp rise in taxes, the destruction of public education and arrogant disregard for city workers!
Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on March 5, 2013 6:47 pm
Submitted by anon (not verified) on March 5, 2013 6:31 pm
guess nutter got his envelope from jeremy
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 5, 2013 7:27 pm
I don't see why the PFTwould be supporting these protestors. Any money not saved by closing schools will come from teachers' pockets in the next contract. The cuts have to come from somewhere.
Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on March 5, 2013 7:13 pm
Yes. They come in the next Governor's election. Philadelphia has some spending problems that do need fixed. However, they are peanuts compared to the systematic underfunding coming from Corbett. If we hadn't elected Corbett, there would be some belt-tightening, but not a complete destruction of public education in the city. We need to look at inefficient spending. We need to look at no-bid contracts. We need to see if there are a few programs or schools that could be combined or relocated. We do not need to close 1/3 of the schools in Philadelphia (remember, BCG's idea calls for 20+ school closings next year too). We do not need to put teachers in financial ruin. We do not need children to walk over a mile through the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city. This is a manufactured crisis, and it was not manufactured by the parents, students, teachers, or communities.
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 5, 2013 8:42 pm
Agreed--manufactured by Tea Party types like Corbett and his ilk. Massive destruction of worker rights as in unions and making a profit for the already rich on the backs of the kids. Gotta Love It. Having said that, Obama has been nothing short of a sellout to the people who voted for him. Say what you want about the Republican Right but Obama has been a punk dealing with them and by extension, all of us. Of course, having Romney in charge would be game, set, match for all but the 1%.

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