Police escorted Mayor Rahm Emanuel from a town hall meeting Wednesday night after protesters, concerned about the fate of a neighborhood school building, stormed the stage and confronted him.
When a protester jumped on stage during the meeting on the Southeast Side, he was first warned but then tempers in the crowd soon erupted.
“You will have to get down,” Chicago Park District Board Vice President Avis LaVelle, the town hall moderator, told the protester during the meetingat the South Shore Cultural Center.
But the protester didn’t listen. And within seconds, the stage where Emanuel sat — his second of three town hall meetings about the city’s budget — became a pulpit for about 20 protesters.
They huddled within inches around Emanuel. They screamed. They pointed their fingers in his face.
Police officers and the mayor’s security team swarmed the stage. Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy also helped secure Emanuel. Then, Emanuel, surrounded by security, was whisked to a back room. The chair he was sitting in lay toppled on the stage. No one was injured in the incident.
The protesters — some of who are more than two weeks into a hunger strike — didn’t let his exit stop their campaign.The group is pushing for a new neighborhood school in the historic Dyett building, supporting a plan for a Dyett Green Technology and Global Leadership High School.
“Save Dyett,” they screamed in unison.
The outburst happened about 7:40 p.m., with about 20 minutes left in the town hall meeting. It had started at 6:30 p.m. with public comments beginning about 6:45 p.m.
Emanuel needs $754 million in new revenue to balance his 2016 budget and shore up police and fire pensions. Dozens of speakers aired their gripes about the city — from red light tickets to property taxes, and of course, the fate of the Dyett building.
About five minutes after the Dyett protesters continued their chant, LaVelle announced the mayor would be meeting with Dyett protesters separately.But the mayor never made it back to the stage because he couldn’t physically get back there, his staff said.
“He wanted to come back several times and wanted to finish,” mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said after the debacle. “He said, ‘I’ll do 10 more minutes because there are people who are actually wanting to participate in this.’ And he was willing to meet with them after.”
Quinn later released a statement after the event, saying a number of ideas were shared from TIF reform to revenue ideas to investing in child care services and violence prevention programming.
“A number of community members also sharedtheir importantideas andtheir concerns on a range of other city issues. It is unfortunate that everyone’svoice could not be heardtonightafter some attendees disrupted the forum causing it to end early. The moderator and the mayor made a nunber of attempts to restart and finish the forum, and offered to meet offered to meet with demonstratorstonight, however those attempts were unsuccessful.We are committed to this process, and to ensuring residents have a voice in this budget, and we are looking forward to the final budget forumtomorrowevening,” Quinn said.
Earlier, Maria Moreno, a Chicago Public Schools speech pathologist, began the first of many chants while holding a sign that read #fightforDyett.
“We have families starving at Dyett. Save Dyett,” Moreno said.
One of the hunger strikers, Rev. Robert Jones, said his group is still waiting to hear Emanuel’s response. They met with himon Monday.
“We are firm in our resolve that we want to be absolutely clear the plan for Dyett comes from Bronzeville. Bronzeville has spoken,” Jones said.“We will not accept a plan that will be supported by some so-called black leaders who are not with us.”
Johnson is one of 12 hunger strikers. The strike began on Aug. 17 in response to a CPS-instituted delay on the district’s own process to put a new school in a building at 551 E. 51stSt. that had housed Dyett High School until June. The school graduated just 13 seniors in June after a year phaseout.
The final meeting is planned forThursdayat Wright College at6:30 p.m.Doors open at5:30 p.m.
Participants of a hunger strike for Dyett High School address Mayor Rahm Emanuel during the second of three town hall meetings on the 2016 city budget at the South Shore Cultural Center on Sept. 2, 2015. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is heckled by protesters for Dyett High School during the second of three town hall meetings on the 2016 city budget at the South Shore Cultural Center on Sept. 2, 2015. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is escorted out of a city budget town hall meeting after protesters took over the stage at the South Shore Cultural Center on Sept. 2, 2015. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media
Dyett High School protesters took over the stage during the second of three town hall meetings on the 2016 city budget at the South Shore Cultural Center on Sept. 2, 2015. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media