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Charges dropped against 9 striking CTU members who blocked entrance to Sterling Bay

The teachers were arrested for trespassing during a protest to highlight TIF money going to the mega-developer’s Lincoln Yards project.

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacey Davis Gates (left) and the nine CTU member arrested Oct. 29 outside a Cook County courthouse in Homan Square.
Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

Trespassing charges against nine members of the Chicago Teachers Union arrested for holding a sit-in outside the offices of a mega-developer during last month’s teachers strike were dropped Wednesday.

The nine CTU members were summarily dismissed and wished a “Happy Thanksgiving” by Cook County Judge Robert D. Kuzas after their complaining party did not appear before the court.

The CTU members were arrested on Oct. 29 after staging a sit-in protest at Fulton West, an office building in the 1300 block of West Fulton Street, which is the headquarters of Lincoln Yards developer Sterling Bay. The CTU targeted Sterling Bay to show what they believe is the city’s misplaced funding priorities, since Lincoln Yards stands to receive as much as $1.3 billion in tax-increment financing to help pay for infrastructure improvements at the planned new development on the North Side.

All nine teachers were charged with a single count of misdemeanor criminal trespass to property.

“This is a win for us,” said Hilario Dominguez, a special education teacher at Peter Cooper Elementary in Pilsen at a press conference outside the courthouse Wednesday.

“I think it’s very clear that what this was all about at the end of day is greedy developers trying to send whatever message they thought they would send to the city by pressing charges on nine CPS teachers,” he said.

A spokesperson for Sterling Bay didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

But at the time of the arrests, the developer tweeted: “At the request of Fulton West’s new management and ownership, not Sterling Bay, CTU protestors have been placed under arrest.”

Roxana Gonzalez, an 8th grade humanities teacher at Dr. Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy in Belmont Cragin, said the goal of the sit-in wasn’t to get CTU members arrested.

“The goal was to call out the hypocrisy in this city, where the notion is that we’re broke and there isn’t money, but there’s money for Sterling Bay,” she said. “That’s not right. As teachers, we’re going to keep fighting for our students. We’re going to keep demanding that that money get redivided to our schools.”

CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates called the nine CTU members at the courthouse “brave educators.”

“The audacity of this city’s ... wealthy elite to put us in a situation where we have to go into a courtroom to get charges dismissed because we were fighting for a nurse,” she said, referring to the union’s push to get nurses placed in every school.