Council Members Among Dozens Arrested at School Shutdown Protest

Arrests come on eve of decision to close more city schools

By Andrew Siff
|  Tuesday, Feb 1, 2011  |  Updated 7:55 AM EDT
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The City's plan to close as many as two-dozen schools led to a large demonstration in <a title=Lower Manhattan Monday. Dozens of protestors formed a human wall blocking Chambers Street, outside the Department of Education. Several City Council members and demonstrators refused to leave the street and were arrested by the NYPD. Andrew Siff reports." />

The City's plan to close as many as two-dozen schools led to a large demonstration in Lower Manhattan Monday. Dozens of protestors formed a human wall blocking Chambers Street, outside the Department of Education. Several City Council members and demonstrators refused to leave the street and were arrested by the NYPD. Andrew Siff reports.

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They stood and formed a human blockade on Chambers Street Monday evening. The chant could be heard from down the block.

"Save our schools!" They yelled.

Then came the NYPD, and an officer with a megaphone: "I am ordering you to leave this roadway. If you do so voluntarily, no charges will be filed against you."

But the protestors ignored that warning, so police rounded up the crowd, and out came the handcuffs. Among those arrested: Brooklyn City Council Members Charles Barron and Jumaane Williams.

"You want to bring charter schools?" yelled Williams, moments before his arrest. "Then talk to the teachers, talk to the parents, talk to the students. Don't go shutting down 26 schools in neighborhoods that need it. We're people, not digits."

City officials have said the schools in question are not completely closing-- but instead, being reorganized with new leadership. Officials also insist these schools have poor graduation rates and low attendance.

The final decision on which of the 26 schools in question to close is expected in a two-part vote: Tuesday and Thursday  at Brooklyn tech High School.

Monday's protestors were brought to the First Precinct Stationhouse in Lower Manhattan, where they were issued summonses for a later court date.

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