January 24, 2010
Contact: Norman Siegel at 347-907-0867, Julie Cavanagh at 917-838-6465
Last Thursday afternoon, January 21, on E. 79 St., across from the mayor’s mansion, parents, students and teachers peacefully protested against the Bloomberg Administration’
Meanwhile, a reporter on the scene caught on videotape the actions of police who were taking photographs of the protesters from the roof and inside a private school across the street. In 1985, the federal court ruled that it is illegal and a violation of civil rights for the New York City police to take photos of protesters, unless they have cause to believe that a crime may be committed. The city signed a consent agreement that year, restricting police surveillance according to these rules, called the Handschu Guidelines. In the case of this peaceful protest, there was no such cause. The video is available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.
The protesters are asking for a full explanation as to why the pictures were taken and how the police plan to use the photos. The protestors also want to know whether any videotaping of them was done. Finally, they are considering filing a complaint with Judge Charles S. Haight Jr., the federal judge who has continuing jurisdiction over the enforcement of the Handschu Guidelines.
Lydia Bellahcene, a parent at PS 15 in Red Hook Brooklyn where the DOE is proposing an extension of a charter school co-location, said, “Mayor Bloomberg and his cohorts can not be allowed to dismantle public education. I am outraged that there was this kind of surveillance at a peaceful protest of mothers and others. We broke no laws, and the NYPD should not be allowed to violate the laws for Mayor Bloomberg’s benefit either. The mayor and the NYPD should get used to these protests, because I and mothers across the city will be doing it again.”
Rachel Ali, student at Maxwell High School, said: “Major Bloomberg has gone too far! He is being undemocratic in his actions as if to say that he is an exception to the rules of this nation. Rules are created to maintain order and he has already broken the law by running for a third term. How much corruption can there be in one city, where the major can destroy the public school system because he thinks his way is better! His illegal surveillances are another example of his mindset. He thinks he can do whatever he wants and that the people of New York will simply accept his actions, but he is wrong. We will stand for what we believe in.”
Lisa Donlan, public school parent and the President of the Community Education Council of District 1 on the Lower East Side, said: “The illegal surveillance of a peaceful group of orderly, organized protesters is yet another example of this administration'
Khem Irby, public school parent and education advocate said, “In light of the fact that our Mayor does not have the potter's touch to fix what he has perfectly broken for seven years, I request an immediate halt in these public school closings. The board of education should take the challenge to be more creative with the communities and plant the resources to revitalize those schools. This act is an admission that the job is too hard for him. Breaking the law is not the answer either.”
"This type of intimidation and undemocratic action by the mayor is the very reason why the community believes he is destroying public education. No matter how good the intentions, when one man shuts out the voices of the community, and believes that his beliefs should have special status above all others: whether it concerns first amendment rights, decisions regarding public education, or the legal use of the police force - it is a danger to the very essence of our democratic ideals,” said Seung Ok, teacher at Maxwell Vocational high school in Brooklyn, a school which the administration has slated for closure.
“The intense police force and surveillance of a peaceful group of parent, student, and teacher protesters last Thursday highlights a clear attempt by Mayor Bloomberg’s Administration to silence and intimidate stakeholders in education policy. The hallmark of this Administration has been to deny and disenfranchise the voices of parents in the debates surrounding school policies, such as school closings and charter school invasions. This is a clear intent to dissuade active participation in advocacy efforts on their children’s behalf,” says Julie Cavanagh, teacher PS 15, “We view these actions as a violation of our civil liberties and will continue in our struggle to protect our children’s public education system and our First Amendment rights.”