La Casita protests continue through the night of August 16 - August 17, 2013 after police arrest three people... Chicago Public Schools blocked trying to demolish iconic 'La Casita' community center

It all started when a 6:45 dance class at La Casita was about to start. At 6:30, a community meeting was being held within the building called "La Casita," the "Little House" adjacent to Whittier Elementary School in the 1900 block of 23rd St. in Chicago. Throughout the night, a growing protest which reminded people of the struggles of 2010 and 2011 to preserve the community center was evolving. On the one hand, Chicago police and contractors had removed everyone from the iconic building and appeared to be preparing to demolish it. On the other hand, a growing group of protesters, which began swelling as the new day dawned, vowed to, once again, stop the attack on what had become a symbol of community in Chicago. [This article will be updated throughout the night and day as information becomes available. We will try to indicate the time of each update].

According to those who were there, the Chicago police came and issued a two-minute warning to vacate the premises. Two people, Nate Goldblaum and Albert Valesquez were arrested. A third person, who is a community member but whose name was not available to Substance at press time, approached to give them the National Lawyer’s Guild’s phone number and was also arrested by CPD.

Protesters continued gathering through the night and into the morning from August 16 to August 17 following the surprise attack on "La Casita" orders, apparently, by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Substance photo by Kati Gilson.Protests began and continued throughout the night. At various times, 30 -80 community members were at La Casita throughout the evening. Just before dawn, about a dozen people including community members, activists, teachers, and Chicago Teachers Union representatives were camped out in front of the building.

According to those who were present earlier, at about 7 pm, CPS contractors began erecting barriers around the premises. Almost immediately they began removing the contents from the building and placing them on the playground. Among the contents were books donated to the library. About an hour later they put them in a storage container. The contractors said they were removing asbestos from the building and they didn’t know what was going to happen after that. Currently there is one CPS monitoring the situation. (Posted at 3:45 am August 17, 2013) ...

As the sun rose on August 17, more than a dozen protesters remained on 23rd St. in front of La Casita and in the alley behind the building. Those who had been arrested the night before had been released, but had been warned not to return to the site, according to those on the scene. One of the many mysteries surrounding the situation as of the early morning on August 17 was the question of the legal authorization for the attack on the longstanding symbol of community desire and will. The permit shown to the people stated that the activity was for "Asbestos Removal."

The only legal order provided to people on the night of August 16, 2013 claimed that the building was facing "Asbestos Removal/Demolition". But the "owner" of the property was listed as Lansing Elementary School District 158 in Lansing Illinois. CPS officials at the site (security chief Jadine Chou) refused to provide Substance reporters with a copy of any legal order pertaining to the site. Throughout the early morning, it became more and more clear to observers at the scene that the demolition of the building was the clear intention. A truck from "American Demolition" arrived just before 7:00 a.m. Those who were gathering surmised that the "asbestos removal" was a pretext to force people out of the building under the guise of providing for public safety.

Just before dawn, Commonwealth Edison cut off power to the building. Noel Grassney, a Com Ed spokesman, told Substance that she didn't know who ordered the cutting off of the power, but that such a move cold only be done at the request of the "customer." She said she was unable to identify the customer but would try to do so.

The last time anyone from the community checked, La Casita was still the property of Chicago Public Schools. During the night, CPS security chief Jadine Chou arrived and began ordering around CPS security at the site. Chou refused to answer questions from Substance in the time before dawn. No one was available to explain why the "Asbestos Removal" order specified the Lansing public schools as the owner.


August 17, 2013 at 9:25 AM

By: Bob Busch

Asbestos lies by CPS -- a history lesson

Asbestos dangers!? What a crock. When the time came to remove asbestos from the banana room at Simeon, it was quite an operation.

First the contractor set up plastic tarps to prevent any asbestos from escaping.

Then workers in has-mat gear did the work. When they were done each had to wash off in a portable shower set up for them. Even the

water was contained in a special tank.

OSHA and the asbestos workers union should stop them right now before someone gets

a fatal whiff of poison.

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