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Teachers' Union To Wrap Up Three-Day Protest Of School Closings

Updated 05/20/13 - 5:22 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago Teachers Union wraps up a three-day march to voice opposition to plans to close more than 50 public schools Monday.

Protesters dropped of petitions calling for a moratorium on school closings at the mayor's office. Police arrested some protesters who were blocking the elevators at City Hall, which are now all clear. The marchers then held a rally in Daley plaza.

Protesters are arrested at City Hall on Monday. (Credit: Lisa Fielding/WBBM Newsradio)

WBBM Newsradio's Nancy Harty reports the union organized a three-day march through the city, as teachers, parents and students walked through the West and South Sides, to visit many of the 54 schools targeted for closing by the Chicago Public Schools.

Union To Wrap Up School Closings Protest

On the West Side, protesters gathered at Elizabeth Peabody Elementary School at 10 a.m., before marching to Near North Elementary School and George Manierre Elementary School before heading downtown.

On the South Side, protesters gathered at Mayo Elementary School around 8 a.m. before marching to the site of Williams Preparatory Academy Middle School and Williams Multiplex Elementary School, two schools sharing the same campus in the Bronzeville neighborhood. After a rally at Williams, they planned to march downtown Monday afternoon.

CBS 2's Vince Gerasole reports protesters were demanding CPS halt its plans to close 54 schools at the end of the school year.

Crowds included a mix of union teachers, supporters from other labor unions, parents, and some students.

The three-day march saw groups of protesters visit more than half of the schools on the closure list.

Opponents have said they are worried the school closings will bring more violence to some neighborhoods by leaving buildings vacant, creating a place for troublemakers to gather. They are also concerned about mixing students from different neighborhoods at the so-called "welcoming schools."

Marchers and parents said they want their voices heard, and expressed frustration over the public hearings that have been held regarding the planned closings.

"We're not going to just accept what the mayor decrees. We don't feel that the mayor represents the 99 percent. It's not an elected school board, many of them are millionaires, and these are not the people who represent the best interests of our children," said protester Debby Pope.

CPS parent Shirley Williams said she doesn't believe the Board of Education has been listening to the concerns expressed by public school parents.

"I believe that the board already has an agenda. They already know what they're going to do," she said.

Ketoria Haywood said, "They've heard the children's voices, they saw the children's tears, they saw the teachers' tears. No, it doesn't matter."

Opponents of school closings said shootings would increase when school buildings close.

"Violence will really overtake that community, because the schools are a safe haven for the children," one protester said Sunday.

Protesters also have said students would be forced to walk through dangerous neighborhoods to get to new schools after their current schools are closed.

The Chicago Board of Education will vote on closings on Wednesday, voting on each school individually.

Earlier this month, a group of independent hearing officers issued reports opposing at least 13 of the planned closings, arguing the district has not adequately planned security measures for students who would be forced to travel through dangerous neighborhoods, or that the new schools were not clearly better than those being closed.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made no promises to keep any of those schools open, and has hinted his hand-picked board won't follow the hearing officers' recommendations.

"The board will take what they've said [and] work through it, but do what we need to do as a city because this…has been deferred through the years…We haven't addressed it in the past — both on the academic side and on the financial side," Emanuel said last week.

According to news reports, the board could spare some of the schools that hearing officers said should stay open.

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