‘This was a safe haven’: Chicago schoolhouse demolished despite community opposition
Supporters of a Chicago community schoolhouse were arrested Saturday morning while protesting the facility’s demolition, as residents vowed to continue pressuring city leaders to live up to financial commitments.
WMAQ-TV reported that 10 people were arrested following the demolition of La Casita, as the informal community center was known. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) officials said in a statment that the facility, located behind Whittier Elementary school, had been deemed unsafe for the past three years and that it was being demolished out of concern for students’ safety.
But, according to WLS-TV, the building had become a focal point for a neighborhood group, the Whittier Parents Committee, who used the facility to offer free workshops, computers and a library, and staged a 43-day sit-in in 2010 to keep it.
“They talk about safe passage, they talk about the violence,” committee member Gema Gaete said to WLS. “We were an answer. We were providing an answer for free at no cost to CPS, and this is how they repay us.”
Committee members also accused Alderman Danny Solis and State Rep. Edward Acevedo (D) of reneging on promises to contribute more than $500,000 between them to help renovate the building. Protesters attempted to reach Solis at a local event on Saturday, but staff members from his office told WLS he was out of town. The Chicago Tribune reported that Solis said in a statement that a planned meeting between CPS and community members had been canceled, but did not indicate which party scuttled the meeting.
“This was something that was working for our kids,” Gaete told the Tribune. “This was a safe haven.”
Watch WLS’ report, aired Saturday, below.