City Closes Eighteen Schools Amid Dueling Occupy Wall Street, Teachers Union Protests

By
The ruckus at last night's school panel. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Just after eleven last night, a city panel voted to close eighteen schools (including Williamsburg's Roberto Clemente school, which is nearing its centennial) and chop off the middle-school grades at five others. By the time the vote was taken, there were just 200 or so people left in the vast Brooklyn Tech auditorium — not including the press corps, slumped in the orchestra pit — but just a few hours earlier, the scene had been much rowdier, with as many as  2,000 Occupy Wall Street protesters packing the space, according to the Daily News's Ben Chapman. Along with their now-perfected "people's mic," the occupiers hooted and hollered so loudly (horns were apparently involved) that they even drowned out a parallel protest held by the teachers union. Some panel members had to wear headphones just to hear the short statements from parents, students, and teachers, pretty universally opposed to the closings.

But two hours into the meeting hundreds began hightailing it out of there as rumors circulated that a police crackdown was imminent. (A photo tweeted by Chapman shows a police officer standing in front of a crowd, with zip-ties at the ready.) Ultimately no arrests were made.

Though the protesters were unable to save all the schools on the chopping block, at least they had some allies in their latest battle with Bloomberg's take-no-prisoners education policy. Comptroller (and one-time mayoral hopeful) John Liu told the teachers union rally that "the Department of Education needs to rethink its whole policy." And just the day before, the Independent Budget Office sent the city a report that the high schools on the closure list enrolled a higher-than-average percentage of poor, disabled, and non-English-speaking students. The city countered that it hadn't been given time to respond, and that there were "significant mistakes in the data analysis," per the DoE's general counsel.