Big pushback against Christie, Cami

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A protester holds an anti-Anderson sign at Broad and Market.
A protester holds an anti-Anderson sign at Broad and Market.

Several hundred protesters yesterday shut down  Newark’s central business district in a rush-hour demonstration aimed at showing the growing strength of the organized opposition to the Christie Administration’s “One Newark”  plan that would close neighborhood public schools, expand charter school enrollment, and lay off experienced city teachers despite seniority.

Branden Rippy discusses protest plans with Lt. Robert Sarappa
Branden Rippy discusses protest plans with Lt. Robert Sarappa

“We are building our movement,” said Branden Rippey, the head of the Newark Teachers Union’s New Caucus and a lead organizer of the protest march that twice closed down Broad Street, the busiest business thoroughfare in the state’s largest city. The protest also showed the growing strength of the Newark Students Union, an organization that has become the most energized of the groups opposed to state control of New Jersey’s largest school district.

Some 300 to 400 marchers began the protest in front of the Prudential Center on Market

Protesters lock arms to prevent traffic from getting through Newark's busiest intersection.
Protesters lock arms to prevent traffic from getting through Newark’s busiest intersection.

Street and marched a block west toward the busy crossing with Broad. There, they divided into four groups and spilled onto the open intersection, eventually locking arms and shutting down traffic. By the time they cleared the intersection 20 minutes later, traffic was jammed for blocks in all four directions.

“We have a duty to fight, we have a duty to win, we have a duty to protect each other,” called out Kristin Towkaniuk, the student union’s president.

The students, many of them from the city’s prestigious magnet high schools, were the first to enter the busy intersection and stop traffic. The heavy crossing was well patrolled by city police but the officers made no effort to clear the intersection  once it was occupied by the protesters.

“They did a good job, they were well organized,” said Lt. Robert “Bobby” Sarappa, the officer in charge of the police supervising the demonstration.

Sarappa and Rippey and other march leaders discussed plans for the protest before it began and it was clear they reached agreement on how it should proceed. That was an agreement that almost ran aground when a group of Newark parents, led by activist Donna Jackson, led the protesters back out into the street after they left Broad and Market and marched to school headquarters on Broad Street.

Newark Student Union leader Kristin Towkaniuk addresses demonstrators at Broad and Market
Newark Student Union leader Kristin Towkaniuk addresses demonstrators at Broad and Market

“You’ve got to tell these people what this protest is all about, they’ve got to know,” Jackson said as angry motorists began blaring heir horns at Broad and Raymond Boulevard.

The glitch illustrated  both the possible strengths and weaknesses of the movement against the actions of Cami Anderson, a close political ally of former Newark Mayor Cory Booker who was appointed in 2011 by Gov. Chris Christie to run the city schools for the state. Historically, parent organizations and school employee unions have eyed each other warily in Newark–so their ability to work together now is a tribute to just how badly hated Anderson is in the city, so despised she can unify varying groups against her. But parent and civic leaders like Jackson might prove less cautious about dealing with the school leadership than have the employee unions.

Rippey conceded he was a “little disappointed” that the demonstration was not the mass protest of more than a thousand its organizers had hoped for–and thought possible because of the real threat to teachers’ jobs in Newark. As part of her “One Newark” plan, Anderson says she plans to lay off more than a thousand of the 3,200 city teachers–and she has asked the state for permission to overlook seniority as the only deciding factor of who gets laid off. The threat of layoffs apparently was not a strong enough motivation to hit the streets of Newark Tuesday afternoon.

NJ Communities United has been holding much of the anti-Anderson coalition together, especially by helping the students’ union to organize–all factions support the students. Other groups backing the protest were the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, Parents United Against One Newark, the Newark Teachers Association, the City Association of School Adminstrators (CASA), the People’s Organization for Progress (POP), and unions representing cafeteria workers and maintenance men. Although mayoral candidate Ras Baraka  did not speak at the protest, many demonstrators carried signs supporting his candidacy. Baraka opposes Anderson’s plans

Parent leader Daryn Martin at Broad and Market
Parent leader Daryn Martin at Broad and Market

One of the featured speakers was Daryn Martin, a parent leader who was first banned from all city public schools and then jailed on a complaint brought by Tiffany Hardrick, an assistant schools superintendent. In January, in the midst of an effort by Anderson to silence criticism of “One Newark,” Martin posted notices of a parent meeting at the Ivy Hill School. Hardrick ordered them removed. Martin signed a complaint against Hardrick but the school officiial responded with a much more serious charge of aggravated assault.

“Putting me in jail is not going to stop us,” Martin told the rally.

Opponents of Christie Administration educational plans are planning a statewide rally March 27 in Trenton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

14 comments

  1. Mr. Outside

    There is also dissent among her ranks. Some of the young architects in her administration who are behind deploying One Newark have been resigning. One Newark is not entirely Cami’s brilliant idea. Last year saw the real architect of the plan, Paymon Rouhanifard leave as her Chief Innovation Officer, and become Superintendent of Camden school district. Cami found out about his new appointment when we all found out. There were and continue to be subsequent executive resignations.

    Over the course of the year the following vacancies have opened:
    • Director, Communications
    • Director, Human Resources
    • Director, Security (2 resignations in one year)
    • Director, Community Engagement
    • Director, Early Childhood
    • Assistant Director, Strategy and Information
    • Director, Talent and Recruting
    • Director, Testing

    The frequency of turnover among this many administrative staff in such a short period of time is a red herring. That averages to be almost one management-level person bailing out a month! And those are for premium six-figure salaries. What is going on at 2 Cedar Street?

  2. Joey

    As an angry commuter i was wondering what the need for masked men was? I totally agree with the teachers fight in Newark.The teachers in Newark and the NTU have never hidden their faces before so i vote NO to masked men and NO to traffic jams. Keep up the good work Bob.

    Bob Braun: If the established organizations don’t lead the way, then other will and they may do worse than wear masks. I’m afraid, for some, patience is wearing thin as outsiders with strong conservative connections take away the city.

    • Becca Field

      Joey – I was aware of people upset by the stop of traffic as I handed out fliers at the rally. I realized that if it had been me, I might have been annoyed too. But here is what I thought after –

      First, imagine the inconvenience being cast on thousands of Newark parents in the One Newark plan as schools close and they get reassigned to other schools – different schools perhaps for each of their children?

      Second, many people willingly took the fliers and asked me what the rally was about – so today many more people know about this struggle than the day before. It may have been a frustrating way to find out – but this fight has to go to the streets sometimes.

      Third, I hope that the people upset by the traffic they encountered yesterday turn that into joining the struggle for our public schools in Newark and beyond.

      Bob Braun: In the 1960s, motorists also were inconvenienced by anti-war demonstrations. The 58,000 Americans and countless Vietnamese killed in a war that proved and solved nothing also were inconvenienced by being dead. Although the MSM gave little attention to the demonstration yesterday–for some, a flagrant leakage of editorial policy on to the news pages–Becca is right, more people know something is happening in Newark than did the day before.

  3. Zinn at heart

    I Read In The Paper On Sunday : Seems Like strategic Move By ThE State To Come In N Take Over Newarks FinanceS. Coincidence?

  4. Amy

    Thanks Bob for such extensive coverage. When I went to the Star-Ledger, both in print and online there was no coverage. Did I miss it? Shame on them and kudos to you!
    Bob Braun: I am sure Ledger employees were caught up in the traffic jam. You could probably hear the chants from Broad and Market.

  5. Chane

    Students, parents and teachers have a right to protest civilly. However, teachers are held to a higher standard even after their workday has ended. Don’t know how safe it is for the kids (or how smart for the cause of teachers) when N.E.W. Caucus allows masked & hooded agitators at the rally. The NTU would never allow it. Their rallys at Adv Brd Mtg and recent legislative actions have accomplished much more in the anti-One Newark war without endangering children and with their faces exposed and heads held high-like the professionals they are.

    Bob Braun: I understand your concern. In NYC, even at the time of Occupy Wall Street, police demanded protesters remove their masks. However, I hope all groups dedicated to the preservation of pubic education set aside their differences in the face of the overwhelming money and political power of the right–and that includes allegedly liberal Democrats like Cory Booker and Barack Obama.

    • Becca Field

      Chane – I do not know much about the masks but with respect to safety, the police were excellent and respectful as were the student protestors – I feel very comfortable saying that it was both effective at communicating a strong message (when was the last time ABC from NYC covered a NTU action??) and a safe environment for the rally.

  6. Anna D'Antonio

    People in Cami’s corner are seeing the writing on the wall & are taking flight, for good reason! Once her illegal methods are exposed, as to how she’s acquiring the $ to set up these charters – those who have pledged their allegiance to her – will go down with her, Cerf & Christie!

    Bob Braun: It won’t be that easy, I’m afraid.

  7. Newarkbluesman

    For those of us who attend the board meeting,when it came to the public input portion,Cami had to leave.Over 2,000 signatures from Newark residence and staff were delivered.We intend to collect many more for the State Board and Joint Comm. on Public Schools. We shall get our schools back and Cami will soon be a Beverly Hall

  8. Tamob

    As a teacher in Newark I attended the rally and did not hide behind a mask. In fact, I agreed to be interviewed live on TV and willingly provided my full name. I am not ashamed or afraid to speak my mind and have my voice heard with the other protesters. As an American citizen, I will exercise my Constitutional rights, and I dare Cami Anderson or Chris Cristie to deny me those rights. I was also pleased to see 4 other teachers from my school marching alongside the parents, students, and community activists.

  9. questioner

    What about the 12,000 students and parents who have already registered for the One Newark plan? Their actions speak loudly, if not moreso, than 200 masked marauders at Broad and Market.

    Bob Braun: 200 masked marauders? Sorry, you must have been in a different Newark than I was yesterday. I saw one masked person. I am a bit surprised only 12k registered since it was presented as a requirement. In any event, I am sorry but this NPS administration tends to make up numbers as it goes along. I am still waiting for the explanation for the 10k charter waiting list.

    • Kate

      The 12,000 One Newark applications that are claimed include current charter attendees who want to change schools, too. It’s not exclusively an exodus from NPS to the corporate schools; there are also charter students who want to return to what’s left of their neighborhood schools, and current charter students who want to try a different charter.

  10. Nicole P

    Let’s be careful not to get distracted by the person/people wearing masks and elevating the idea that “masked marauders” are a threat. Thanks Bob, for addressing the accuracy of the number of individuals who wore this attire for those who may be purporting misleading perceptions. Let’s not cloud over the bigger picture. An important stance was taken by all who supported this demonstration of courage and just plain old speaking our for what is right and calling out what is wrong. As Becca stated, there is a larger message. Could this individual have had a scarf covering his mouth and parts of his face for fear of retribution? Retribution is real. You can’t assume everyone has or should have the same level of comfort with confrontation. He showed up. Or, could it have been a message, symbolizing how the people, including administrators, parents, teachers, have had a gag placed over their mouths and have been denied the opportunity of freedom of speech or even professional criticism, in the face of lies, misinformation, and hidden agendas? We all know that is a primary problem concerning the process.

    Bob Braun: I agree. I’ve reviewed my pictures, photos taken by others, and the YouTube film. I count exactly one person wearing an American flag scarf to hide his face. When Newark becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of a corporation that is headed by friends and supporters of Chris Christie or his successor I wonder whether we will think it mattered that one person out of 300 wore a scarf to hide his face. 200 masked marauders? Yikes.

  11. Pingback: Time For A ‘Fair Shot’ Agenda For Education

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