July 7, 2009
City Councilman Charles Barron tried to haul Schools Chancellor Joel Klein off to jail yesterday but left Tweed Courthouse empty-handed.
His attempted citizen’s arrest came during a rally yesterday to protest Mayor Bloomberg’s continued school control even after mayoral control legally expired last week. Midway through event, Barron took the microphone and ascended Tweed’s steps, some of the crowd following him.
“They are in there illegally,” he said when he got to the doors, which were closed. “They should have to leave. This is the people’s building now.” The doors had been open earlier during the event.
“This is a citizen’s arrest,” he declared, ostensibly because Klein did not vacate his offices after mayoral control technically ended. (In fact, the newly convened Board of Education voted the next day to rehire Klein as chancellor and give him the same authority he had before the mayoral control law expired.)
“Is the chancellor in there?” he asked the security guards on the other side of the glass doors. “No? Tell him I’m looking for him.”
Barron, who has called for Klein to be fired before, said a longtime community activist, Jitu Weusi, should be the chancellor. Weusi was a lead organizer of yesterday’s event, which attracted about 100 people from across the city. (View more pictures from the rally.)
Back down on the sidewalk, City Councilman Robert Jackson, head of the council’s education committee, said he supported Barron’s move. “Clearly, people need to express themselves,” he told me.
Jackson said he was surprised last week when all but one of the borough presidents lined up to use their Board of Education picks to support the mayor’s power. “What surprised me most was that a resolution was put forward by the Board of Education to encourage the Senate to keep the same rubber stamp,” he said, referring to the fact that the school board under mayoral control, known as the Panel for Educational Policy, never rejected any of the mayor’s policies. Jackson and other speakers praised Patrick Sullivan, the lone PEP member who voted against the mayor’s policies at times. Sullivan attended part of the rally but did not speak at it.
Over and over, speakers encouraged attendees to call Sen. John Sampson to urge him not to back down in the mayoral control fight. Sampson has said he is pushing for more parent involvement in school decision-making.
At least one of those calls happened during the event. A woman dialed Sampson’s office and held her phone up as Muba Yarofulani, a Brooklyn parent leader, described her vision for greater parent involvement.