For one group of New York students, a peaceful show of solidarity with Eric Garner turned into an important act of civil disobedience after the Department of Education banned a march planned on Tuesday. DNAinfo reports that students and faculty at the East Side Community High School had organized a march during school hours, to take place on Tuesday, when the DOE suddenly intervened and canceled it just a day before. According to a letter that principal Mark Federman received from the DOE, the event was considered “unsafe” and “did not have enough educational value and showed bias toward one side.”
However, the school had planned the march the way it did a field trip, sending permission slips home, allowing non-participating students to take part in planned in-school activities during the same time, and even coordinated efforts with police officers to ensure protection of the teens and to “give students a positive experience with law enforcement.”
The New York Times reports that students were “agonized” over the jury’s decision and Federmen supported their self-expression and wanted to encourage their sense of civic duty and justice. Federman reportedly wrote a letter to parents last week, after a Staten Island jury decided to not indict Office Daniel Pantaleo in the death of unarmed black man Eric Garner and as protests erupted across the country, acknowledging that him and other were “despondent” over the decision. “As your principal it is not my job to tell you what to do or what to think…This is not about being anti-police, it is about being ‘pro-justice,'” he wrote.
In light of the cancellation, between 60-70 students walked out of school at 1:30 PM on Tuesday in protest, chaperoned with some parents. Faculty did not attend. The school continued its “teach-in” activities as previously lanned, and did not hold any classes. From DNAinfo:
Led by student organizers dressed in black with bands of orange tape around their arms and legs, the group walked from the East 12th Street school to the Astor Place 6 train. They met up with police officers at the Brooklyn Bridge, who accompanied them as they made their way to the federal prosecutor’s office.
16-year-old Joselyn Pena, one of the marchers, told the Times, “My school is a very open school that listens to all voices — they taught me to have a voice.”
“The D.O.E. was wrong — we are the future, and they’re supposed to protect our future,” she added.
— Cathy Albisa (@CathyAlbisa) December 9, 2014
(Photo: Cathy Albisa)