A throng of protestors, police and media descended on Daley Plaza Wednesday, kicking off what are expected to be several weeks of demonstrations against the Chicago Public School closures.
Protestors from across the political spectrum swarmed the Loop just before Wednesday's evening rush, calling for a moratorium on the district's plan to close 54 schools in mostly low-income black and Latino neighborhoodsdue to what the district has pegged an "underutilization" crisis.
(Watch live video of the rally above, courtesy CAN TV. See Twitter reactions to participants gathering in Daley Plaza for the CPS school closure protest below.)
Addressing the crowd of hundreds during the rally, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis urged demonstrators to continue to fight back against the planned closures.
"It's not over until you say it's over," Lewis said Wednesday. "I'll tell you what to do. How about on the first day of school, you show up at your real school."
The CTU has led much of the charge in the opposition to the district's planned closures. DNAinfo Chicago reports the CTU hosted two "Citywide Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Trainings" in mid-March to prepare demonstrators for possible conflict Wednesday.
Surely enough, an estimated 150 protesters, including parents and clergy, were arrested after sitting in the street at the intersection of Washington and LaSalle around 5 p.m. An Chicago Police officer on the scene told HuffPost for act of disobedience, the protester's would likely be ticketed for "public endangerment" after sitting in the road.
A group of CPS students angry with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the school board already gathered Monday to protest in advance of the larger mid-week rally.
CTU and downtown commuters weren't the only ones bracing for Wednesday's protest. DNAinfo reports the CPS Board of Education rescheduled its March meeting from Wednesday, in the process angering some parents by denying families a rare chance to attend a weekday meeting on a day off; CPS schools are currently on spring break.
CPS officials had also warned principals what do to if instances of civil disobedience — including "occupations," sit-ins and walk-outs — happen in their buildings. Earlier, the CTU leaked a "secret" memo from CPS that included instructions to principals like:
“Observe and report all information regarding possible protestors [sic], locations, dates and times ... Is the media present? Which news outlet(s)?”
The late afternoon protest — which blocked streets for an effective "shut down" immediately surrounding Daley Plaza — moved by City Hall before rallying down Clark Street, ultimately ending at CPS' 125 S. Clark St. headquarters around 6 p.m.
According to ABC Chicago, city police say they are "aware of the rally and plan to protect protesters' 1st Amendment rights while limiting the impact on downtown traffic."
A Facebook announcement for the rally warned, “They want to shut down our schools, we’ll shut down the city.” Other groups, including hacktivist group Anonymous has indicated support and possible presence at the rally.