LA CASITA... CPS officials turn off gas in attempt to freeze out sit in on coldest night in Chicago in six months

Officials of the Chicago Public Schools continued their offensive against the sit-in demanding a library at "La Casita" (the Little House) adjacent to Whittier Elementary School at 1900 W. 23rd St. in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. On October 4, CPS ordered that the gas supply going into the field house building west of the main school building be turned off, resulting in a cold night for the protesters who have been sitting in to get a school library since September 15. The latest ploy by Ron Huberman, Chief Executive Officer of Chicago's Public Schools, comes during the third week when Huberman and his political allies refuse to meet with the protesters.

Protesters noted the irony of the situation as the temperatures in Chicago dropped into the low 40s on the night of October 4 to 5. At least there is now a library for the children of Whittier, albeit a cold one. CPS officials have admitted that fifteen years after Chicago's imperial mayor, Richard M. Daley, took over the city's public schools system, a total of 160 schools don't have libraries for the children. While the Huberman administration is spending an additional $50 to $100 million this year on expanded testings for children from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade — and on a fad it calls "Performance Management" — libraries are not a priority. Books for poor and working class children are out of the budget, again.

The cutoff of heat and power to the building comes after more than 1,000 books have been donated to La Casita, and after the children of the community have begun to use the library. Challenges to the various lies told by CPS spokesman Monique Bond and other CPS officials have gone under-reported in the corporate media in Chicago. These lies include the claim that the building is unsafe (when it is in fact simply in need of minor repairs, many of which have been done since the sit-in began) and that CPS has a "library" at Whittier (it's a thing called "Walking Library" where a teacher pushes a cart of books from room to room).

For more than a week, the library has been staffed by a "guerilla librarian" who is donating her time. The parents and children who are occupying the building work in shifts, with a certain number sleeping in the building every night so that the Chicago Board of Education does not demolish the structure that has served the community for generations (some estimate 100 years). Substance researchers have discovered that one of the reasons CPS officials want to evict the protesters — and demolish the library, which now exists — is that Congressman Luis Gutierrez and Alderman Daniel Solis, two of Chicago's most powerful politicians, have gotten $1 million to demolish everything in the space west of the Whittier building in order to build a soccer field that would primarily serve the students of nearby Cristo Rey school, a Jesuit high school that has been cited by the Gates Foundation as a model for urban "school reform." The private school has more clout in certain parts of the community than the public schools.

By the end of the second full week of the sit-in, the officers of the Chicago Teachers Union announced their support for the action, donating 500 books to the library in the name of the union. The new leadership of the CTU, which took office on July 1, 2010, includes teachers who were part of the organizing to improve Whittier during the years leading up to the recent upset victory of the CORE slate in the Spring 2010 elections in the third largest k-12 union local in the American Federation of Teachers.

Several union staff members have spent time at the sit-in since it began on September 15. On September 17, the day CPS officials threatened to arrest everyone inside the building, union leaders were among the activists who brought an additional 100 (or more) people to the building just before the arrests were to begin. The stand off will enter its fourth full week on Wednesday, October 6. Other groups that have been active in support of the sit-in include Teachers for Social Justice and CORE, Chicago's Caucus of Rank and File Educators. But the leadership of the sit-in itself comes from the parents and students of Whittier, who meet regularly and make their decisions communally. 


October 5, 2010 at 2:31 PM

By: The Retired Principal (RP)

Whittier Fieldhouse Gas Cut Off

Whittier parent Manuel Beltran said parents will stick it out by using electric heaters. "They want us to run away but we are not going to," Manuel said, "We are not going anywhere!" Concerned citizens who want to support the Whittier parents and their fight to keep the fieldhouse as a library can donate these items to the parents: Books, book stands, bottled water, coffee, markers, scotch tape, posters, heat lamps, glue sticks, colored paper, dry-erase markers and blankets. These items can be dropped off at Whittier Elemwentary School Fieldhouse, 1900 W. 23rd Street, Chicago, IL 60608. Thanking you in advance.

October 6, 2010 at 10:45 AM

By: Susan Ohanian

La Casita

I've posted pleas on my website for people to donate books and I am getting responses. From California to Massachusetts, books are on their way.

Thank you, Substance, for the ongoing coverage.

Thank you, La Casita parents.

Susan Ohanian

October 6, 2010 at 1:30 PM

By: Anne Scheetz

questions about donations

Can donations be dropped off at any time?

Are you asking for ground coffee so that you can brew your own, or for coffee that is already made?


October 6, 2010 at 1:41 PM

By: Chris

La Casita donations

There are people around the fieldhouse throughout the day and night. Either ground coffee or already made is appreciated. The pre-made coffee is probably better after 11 or midnight (so that it's warm when folks get sleepy).

Thank you, Anne!

October 7, 2010 at 3:33 PM

By: Matt Farmer

Whittier Sit-In

October 7, 2010 at 4:29 PM

By: The Retired Principal (RP)

Whittier Fieldhouse/Library

The Chicago City Council on Wednesday ordered the Chicago Public Schools to postpone demolition of the Whittier School fieldhouse and to restore heat and hot water that CPS was turned off on Monday! The Chicago City Council also ordeded the Chicago Public Schools to not do anything until the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force releases recommendations on how facilities should be repaired or built. Illinois State Representative who is the chairperson of this taskforce has vowed to have input on this situation. Cynthia supports the Whittier parents!

October 10, 2010 at 10:15 PM

By: J.S. Whitfield

A Whittier Poem

A Summons

MEN of the North-land! where's the manly spirit

Of the true-hearted and the unshackled gone?

Sons of old freemen, do we but inherit

Their names alone?

Is the old Pilgrim spirit quenched within us,

Stoops the strong manhood of our souls so low,

That Mammon's lure or Party's wile can win us

To silence now?

Now, when our land to ruin's brink is verging,

In God's name, let us speak while there is time!

Now, when the padlocks for our lips are forging,

Silence is crime!

What! shall we henceforth humbly ask as favors

Rights all our own? In madness shall we barter,

For treacherous peace, the freedom Nature gave us,

God and our charter?

Here shall the statesman forge his human fetters,

Here the false jurist human rights deny,

And in the church, their proud and skilled abettors.

Make truth a lie?

Torture the pages of the hallowed Bible,

To sanction crime, and robbery, and blood?

And, in Oppression's hateful service, libel

Both man and God?

Shall our New England stand erect no longer,

But stoop in chains upon her downward way,

Thicker to gather on her limbs and stronger

Day after day?

Oh no; methinks from all her wild, green mountains;

From valleys where her slumbering fathers lie;

From her blue rivers and her welling fountains,

And clear, cold sky;

From her rough coast, and isles, which hungry Ocean

Gnaws with his surges; from the fisher's skiff,

With white sail swaying to the billows' motion

Round rock and cliff;

From the free fireside of her unbought farmer;

From her free laborer at his loom and wheel;

From the brown smith-shop, where, beneath the hammer,

Rings the red steel;

From each and all, if God hath not forsaken

Our land, and left us to an evil choice,

Loud as the summer thunderbolt shall waken

A People's voice.

Startling and stern! the Northern winds shall bear it

Over Potomac's to St. Mary's wave;

And buried Freedom shall awake to hear it

Within her grave.

Oh, let that voice go forth! The bondman sighing

By Santee's wave, in Mississippi's cane,

Shall feel the hope, within his bosom dying,

Revive again.

Let it go forth! The millions who are gazing

Sadly upon us from afar shall smile,

And unto God devout thanksgiving raising,

Bless us the while.

Oh for your ancient freedom, pure and holy,

For the deliverance of a groaning earth,

For the wronged captive, bleeding, crushed, and lowly,

Let it go forth!

Sons of the best of fathers! will ye falter

With all they left ye perilled and at stake?

Ho! once again on Freedom's holy altar

The fire awake!

Prayer-strengthened for the trial, come together,

Put on the harness for the moral fight,

And, with the blessing of your Heavenly Father,

Maintain the right!

John Greenleaf Whittier

October 24, 2010 at 12:21 PM

By: J.S.Whitfield

A Whittier Poem (Slave-Ships)


by: John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

"LL ready?" cried the captain;

"Ay, ay!" the seamen said;

"Heave up the worthless lubbers,--

The dying and the dead."

Up from the slave-ship's prison

Fierce, bearded heads were thrust:

"Now let the sharks look to it,--

Toss up the dead ones first!"

Corpse after corpse came up,--

Death had been busy there;

Where every blow is mercy,

Why should the spoiler spare?

Corpse after corpse they cast

Sullenly from the ship,

Yet bloody with the traces

Of fetter-link and whip.

Gloomily stood the captain,

With his arms upon his breast,

With his cold brow sternly knotted

And his iron lip compressed.

"Are all the dead dogs over?"

Growled through that matted lip;

"The blind ones are no better,

Let's lighten the good ship."

Hark from the ship's dark bosom,

The very sounds of hell!

The ringing clank of iron,

The maniac's short, sharp yell!

The hoarse, low curse, throat-stifled;

The starving infant's moan,

The horror of a breaking heart

Poured through a mother's groan.

Up from that loathsome prison

The stricken blind ones came;

Below, had all been darkness,

Above, was still the same.

Yet the holy breath of heaven

Was sweetly breathing there,

And the heated brow of fever

Cooled in the soft sea air.

"Overboard with them, shipmates!"

Cutlass and dirk were plied;

Fettered and blind, one after one,

Plunged down from the vessel's side.

The sabre smote above,

Beneath, the lean shark lay,

Waiting with wide and bloody jaw

His quick and human prey.

God of the earth! what cries

Rang upward unto thee?

Voices of agony and blood,

From ship-deck and from sea.

The last dull plunge was heard,

The last wave caught its stain,

And the unsated shark looked up

For human hearts in vain.

* * *

Red glowed the western waters,

The setting sun was there,

Scattering alike on wave and cloud

His fiery mesh of hair.

Amidst a group of blindness,

A solitary eye

Gazed from the burdened slaver's deck,

Into that burning sky.

"A storm," spoke out the gazer,

"Is gathering and at hand;

Curse on 't, I'd give my other eye

For one firm rood of land."

And then he laughed, but only

His echoed laugh replied,

For the blinded and the suffering

Alone were at his side.

Night settled on the waters,

And on a stormy heaven,

While fiercely on that lone ship's track

The thunder-gust was driven.

"A sail!--thank God, a sail!"

And as the helmsman spoke,

Up through the stormy murmur

A shout of gladness broke.

Down came the stranger vessel,

Unheeding on her way,

So near that on the slaver's deck

Fell off her driven spray.

"Ho! for the love of mercy,

We're perishing and blind!"

A wail of utter agony

Came back upon the wind:

"Help us! for we are stricken

With blindness every one;

Ten days we've floated fearfully,

Unnoting star or sun.

Our ship's the slaver Leon,--

We've but a score on board;

Our slaves are all gone over,--

Help, for the love of God!"

On livid brows of agony

The broad red lightning shone;

But the roar of wind and thunder

Stifled the answering groan;

Wailed from the broken waters

A last despairing cry,

As, kindling in the stormy light,

The stranger ship went by.

* * *

In the sunny Guadaloupe

A dark-hulled vessel lay,

With a crew who noted never

The nightfall or the day.

The blossom of the orange

Was white by every stream,

And tropic leaf, and flower, and bird

Were in the warm sunbeam.

And the sky was bright as ever,

And the moonlight slept as well,

On the palm-trees by the hillside,

And the streamlet of the dell:

And the glances of the Creole

Were still as archly deep,

And her smiles as full as ever

Of passion and of sleep.

But vain were bird and blossom,

The green earth and the sky,

And the smile of human faces,

To the slaver's darkened eye;

At the breaking of the morning,

At the star-lit evening time,

O'er a world of light and beauty

Fell the blackness of his crime.

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