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Support grows for elementary school sit-in

Published Jul 1, 2012 10:25 PM

School is out all over the Bay Area except at Lakeview Elementary, one of the schools recently closed by the Oakland United School District. At Lakeview, the People’s School for Public Education holds daily classes and activities for children. The Save the Lakeview Elementary Coalition continues its sit-in and occupation of the school property.

WW photo: Judy Greenspan

If the June 23 protest — a lively march of several hundred people from Oscar Grant Plaza in downtown Oakland to the school — is any indication, this growing community of parents, teachers, students and Occupy activists will not accept any school closures.

The protest featured students, family members and supporters from the other elementary schools that were also closed on June 15. Members of the Oakland Education Association, the local teachers’ union which is part of the National Education Association, marched proudly behind a banner that read, “Bail Out Schools and Services Not Banks.”

An opening rally was held at Oscar Grant Plaza, which was renamed by the Oakland progressive community to honor Oscar Grant, a young African-American man shot and killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit police on January 1, 2009. Thearse Pecot, a grandmother of three children who went to Santa Fe Elementary School, one of the schools closed by OUSD, told the crowd, “We have children that need to be educated. We can’t do that by closing schools!”

Bryant Phan, a young rap artist from Youth Speaks and a graduate of Oakland schools, delivered a moving spoken word performance about Oakland and the community’s ability to survive and to thrive. The rally was chaired by Fey, an after-school teacher in Oakland who is part of the sit-in at Lakeview. “There is a 50 percent dropout rate in this city,” Fey stated. “We are trying to protect the right for everyone to have an education.”

Jabari Shaw, an Oakland community activist, ended the rally with another political rap and then led a group of children out of Oscar Grant Plaza to start the march, chanting, “Stop attacks on education! Build the Lakeview occupation!”

All along the march route to Lakeview, people in cars honked their horns and expressed their solidarity with this community struggle against school closures.

After another rally at Lakeview, Jamal and Zacquiel, both fourth graders, thanked people for coming. “Thank you for supporting our struggle,” said Jamal. Referring to the People’s School for Public Education, he continued, “There’s nothing better than having fun and learning.”

People were urged to join the sit-in and support the People’s School. A mobilization is being planned for June 27 when the Oakland School Board has its meeting.