150 activists block city intersection to protest One Newark

By Jessica Mazzola and Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
on September 10, 2014

Students blocked an intersection in Newark this morning to protest the One Newark plan

 

NEWARK — About 150 activists blocked a busy Newark intersection this morning in the second straight day of protesting against Newark Public Schools' controversial school overhaul plan.

The protesters, including students, parents and community activists, camped out at the intersection of Raymond Boulevard and Broad Street, prompting city police to divert south bound traffic on Broad Street.

Today's protest, which drew activists from as far away as Philadelphia and New York City, followed a demonstration against of Newark Public Schools with about 200 students on Tuesday at Military Park.

The activists re-issued their demands today, including halting One Newark, a district reorganization plan that involves expanding charter schools, relocating students and staff, and changing leadership in existing schools.

"Our voices have been ignored time and time again," said Anthony Carey, 18, who recently graduated from East High School.

A handful of students interlocked their arms in plastic tubes with "we have nothing to lose but our chains" written on them.

Others chanted "no justice no peace" and "the students united will never be divided."

A spokeswoman for the district said school officials have met with the activist group in the past, and would be open to meeting with them again in the future. But, that the district is concerned about the students who are missing school days to take part in the protests.

"Time on task is extremely critical to the success of students," a district representative said.

"The District is supportive of students expressing their views and concerns, however we are encouraging them to return immediately to school and hope that members of the community will join us in this call."

On top of halting the One Newark plan, the activists asked for the the resignation of Superintendent Cami Anderson, a town hall with Gov. Chris Christie in Newark and for a locally elected governing body to run the school system.

Justice Scaglione, 14, said though he got his first choice high school, Science Park High School under One Newark, he thinks the plan unfairly favors charter schools over traditional neighborhood schools.

The school district has operated under state governance since 1993.

"We just think with her leaving it can go back to the way it was," Scaglione said, referring to Anderson.

Tanya Toloza,16, said three of her siblings used to go Ann Street elementary school now have to go to Hawkins Street school under One Newark because of a mix-up with the school district.

"So we have to walk 10 blocks," she said.

The One Newark has faced intense criticism from Newark community groups since it was first announced in December. Yesterday, after a group of students protested at Military Park.

Paul Karr, the communications director for NJ Communities United, which helped organize the protests along with the Newark Students Union, said their efforts have attracted widespread attention.

“We are connected to a broader national movement protecting public education,” he said. “Here in Newark, we feel obligated to make our voices heard.”

The activists said this morning they plan to stay at the until "as long as it takes." But by mid-day the crowd had started to dwindle.

The Newark Police Department has not answered questions on any potential response to the protests, but district officials said they are working with police.

Newark Student Union president Kristin Towkaniuk advised her fellow student activists this morning to not resist arrest if it comes to that.

"Stay confident," she said into a blow horn. "Don't be intimidated."

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