January 21 protest gets First Amendment green light from federal judge... New York City protesters can protest on Upper East Side block where Mayor Michael Bloomberg lives

Protesters in New York City who have been mobilizing against the latest round of school closings in New York on January 15 won the right to protest on the block where New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg lives. The City of New York had sought to block the march and rally, scheduled for January 21, citing various reasons, including the fact that Bloomberg, a billionaire (who made his fortune from the Bloomberg machines and news services) lives on one of the most expensive residential blocks in the world. Students from Columbus High School in New York City protested in January 2010 against the inclusion of their school on the "Hit List" of New York school to be closed this year under Mayoral Control. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg controls New York's schools with the same total power as Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley controls Chicago schools. The day after New Year's Day, New York City school chancellor Joel Klein announced the annual "Hit List" of schools in New York to be closed, prompting dozens of protests across four of the five boroughs of the city and plans for a picket outside the Upper East Side home of Michael Bloomberg. When the City of New York tried to block the protest, the coalition of groups organizing the event took the city to court under the First Amendment and won. Substance photo by New York protesters.Parents, students, and teachers will hold their peaceful protest on both the North and South side of Mayor Bloomberg's block; East 79st, between 5th and Madison Avenue on Thursday, January 21st, between 4-6:30 pm. For those who are familiar with New York City, the protest will be taking place just east of Central Park in the neighborhood known as the Upper East Side.

The plans for the Thursday protest grew following the release in early January of the largest "Hit List" of schools to be closed under the mayoral control powers of Michael Bloomberg. New York City schools activists have protested in conjunction with parents, students, community and political leaders at schools targeted for closure in four of the five boroughs of New York City since the New Year began. A loosely knit coalition, built on protests over the past few years, has been coming together since the Hit List was announced, according to New York City teacher and community activists.

Earlier in 2009, protesters at P.S. 72 in New York City (above) rallied to stop the "phase out" of their schools. In New York City, as in Chicago, the mayoral control school board is following a policy of closing public schools on any pretext in order to turn all or part of the school buildings over to charter schools. Even the New York Teachers Union (United Federation of Teachers) has begun mobilizing against the charterization, despite the fact that the union's former president, Randi Weingarten (now president of the American Federation of Teachers) supports charter schools. Substance photo by John Lawhead.Protests against school closings, consolidations, and phase outs have been growing in New York City over the past four years. Since New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg took over the school system, a version of the "Chicago Plan" to privatize public education has been growing.

A news release distributed by the groups planning the protest follows:

From: Julie Cavanagh, Sent: Friday, January 15, 2010 9:14 PM. For Immediate Release. January 15, 2010. Contact: Julie Cavanagh, 917-836-6465,; Norman Siegel: 347-907-0867; Herbert Teitelbaum: 518-441-9412

Parent, Student, and Teacher Protesters Win Right to Rally on Bloomberg’s Block

Victory for the first amendment and for those struggling to protect public schools from closures and charter school invasions!

Today [January 15, 2010], U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein delivered a ruling granting parent, student, and teacher protesters, who are members of The Emergency Coalition to Stop School Closures, the right to protest on Mayor Bloomberg’s block in New York City. Judge Hellerstein ruled that we live in a democracy, and to the greatest extent possible, we have to find ways to protect our citizens, while not compromising the constitutional rights of others, to demonstrate and express their views.

He went on to say that in assessing those values, he found that First Amendment rights support the kind of orderly and peaceful protest the plaintiffs sought to organize. Judge Hellerstein also added that the plaintiffs have the right to a peaceful picket to express their views in relation to important educational policies, particularly the increase in charter schools in the city. Attorneys Norman Siegel and Herbert Tietelbaum successfully argued the case.

“We are very pleased with the Judge’s decision. It is a major win for the right of New Yorkers to peacefully protest including on East 79th Street where the Mayor resides,” said attorney Norman Siegel.

“This is a victory not only for the plaintiffs, but for all who want to express their views to elected representatives,” added attorney Herbert Tietelbaum.

“I am proud our efforts were successful and that we can take a stand in front of the city and the mayor to prevent the closing and phasing out of our school. Most of all I am happy we can voice our opinion on the city pushing out students in need in order to make room for charter schools and small schools that are very selective,” said Khalilah, a student from Maxwell High School.

“I am humbled that a homemaker from Red Hook, Brooklyn can take a stand against City Hall and win," Lydia Bellahcene, parent, P.S. 15 in Brooklyn. "The struggle to save our schools and public education is just beginning. Please join us on January 21st on the Mayor’s block to send a message that says no, to the expansion of charter schools in schools like my children’s, P.S. 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn. We also say no, to the ill defined school closings that pave the way for more charter schools and continue the dismantling of public education.”

“Today is historic for protesting in the City of New York. I am so proud to stand with the parents and students I serve as we fight not only for our right to organize, but as we advocate to protect and preserve public education in our great city," said Julie Cavanagh, who teaches at P.S. 15. "It is not lost on me as an educator that this decision was made on Martin Luther King’s birthday. His legacy of peaceful and loving activism captures the culture of our school, P.S. 15. It is in this spirit that we bring our voices and concerns to the Mayor’s block in the hopes that there, we will be heard. We want to thank, with much admiration and respect, our attorneys Mr. Siegel, Mr. Tittelbaum and their staff, for their tremendous hard work and their dedication to protecting not only our rights, but the rights of all New Yorkers. I also want to thank the amazing parents and students I am so proud to stand behind and support.”

“The decision reaffirms the rights of citizens to protest on a city sidewalk, and prevents the mayor from turning a public city street into his own private front yard. Furthermore, it will allow parents, students, teachers, and members of the 22 communities affected by school closures to have their voices of discontent heard by the Mayor,” Seung Ok, Teacher, Maxwell High School. “The right to demonstrate is not a given, it must be fought for, and we must be vigilant,” said Gustavo Medina, retired teacher, Jamaica High School.

Parents, students, and teachers will hold their peaceful protest on both the North and South side of Mayor Bloomberg's block; East 79st, between 5th and Madison Avenue on Thursday, January 21st, between 4-6:30 pm. Protesters will meet at 5th avenue, on the southwest [Central] park side of the block, which will be the staging area and starting point of the protest. In the event of an appeal from The City of New York, the protest will continue on January 21st, in compliance with the NYPD.

Media Contacts:

Lydia Bellahcene:, 347-463-9809, PTA PS 15- 718-330-9280

Julie Cavanagh:, 917-836-6465

Seung Ok:, 646-244-4468

Norman Siegel: 347-907-0867

Herbert Teitelbaum: 518-441-9412

Khalilah Dickerson- 347-264-4527/

Richard McDonald- 347-445-3927/

The following article was sent to Substance on January 16 by a friend in New York. It's from "Gotham Schools", local media in NYC.

Protesters can demonstrate outside of mayor’s home, judge rules

by Maura Walz (Gotham Schools)

A group of parents, students and teachers will be able to bring their protests nearly to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s doorstep, a federal judge ruled today.

The ruling sets the stage for what is likely to be one of the largest demonstrations against the city’s plan to close 20 schools and allow the expansion of charter schools inside many city school buildings.

Two students at a school slated for closure were among a group that sued this week for the right to rally outside the mayor’s home. They argue that the city has ignored their protests outside of the Department of Education’s Tweed Courthouse headquarters and at individual schools and want to bring the issue to the mayor’s door.

At issue in the suit was whether protesters would be able to demonstrate on the north side of 79th Street, directly in front of the mayor’s residence. The city police department, which has frequently denied requests to demonstrate outside the mayor’s home, had offered to allow the protesters to convene on the south side. Organizers declined to compromise, arguing that they have a civil right to protest on the public sidewalk.

Under the judge’s ruling, protesters will be allowed to gather on the southwest corner of 79th Street and Fifth Avenue and proceed to march along the full perimeter of the street (though not on the sidewalk) between Fifth and Madison Avenues.

“We feel obviously glad, first of all, that our First Amendment rights were protected,” said Julie Cavanagh, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and a teacher at P.S. 15, a district school that currently shares space with a charter that wants to expand.

“And we understand that comes with a big responsibility to hold a peaceful and orderly demonstration, which we know it will be,” she added.

The city plans to appeal the decision, city attorney Diana Murray said in a statement.

“While we appreciate the Court’s implicit finding that the Police Department was warranted in determining that there are special security concerns on the sidewalk adjacent to the Mayor’s residence and that those concerns justify the Department’s refusal to agree to a protest procession on that sidewalk, we believe that the Court was wrong in directing that demonstrators be permitted to walk in the pavement, along the curb on both sides of the street,” Murray said.

Cavanagh said that if the city wins its appeal, organizers will still protest on the mayor’s block, following the police department’s original compromise of sticking to the south side of the street.

“There are all kinds of reasons why that’s inadequate, as the judge mentioned today, but at the very least, the protest will go on there,” Cavanagh said. 

Students produce videos in support of their schools.

One of the most interesting aspects of the growing fight to stop the proposed school closings in New York City (15 high schools on the Hit List) has been that students have produced their own videos and other materials in opposition to the closings. One of those, from Alfred E. Smith High School (a vocational school) is at

New York teachers are predicting a very large turnout for the January 21 protest at Mayor Bloomberg's home. 


January 16, 2010 at 3:53 AM

By: Toussant

New York's "phase out" indicates Chicago plan

Substance, can you report more on how New York City is using the same terminology ("phase out") as Chicago in this corporate version of school reform? Do these guys meet to plan these attacks on public schools? If so, who meets where, when and who pays for it all? Arne Duncan?

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