MANHATTAN (CN) – Activists say New York City unfairly denied them a permit to demonstrate in front of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s house to protest his support of a policy that could close 22 public schools.
Bloomberg declared himself a “strong supporter” of charter schools, which the students, parent and teacher plaintiffs say “have generally denied parents meaningful involvement in their children’s school affairs, denied teachers the right to unionize and often have worked to the detriment of the education of students.”
In their federal complaint, the plaintiffs say that under Bloomberg’s plan, “There are approximately 22 schools currently slated to be closed, at least in part to make way for charter schools, including secondary schools with longstanding ties to the communities in which they are located.”
The Department of Education will convene a 13-member Panel for Educational policy to vote on the 22 closings on Jan. 26.
The activists say they planned to protest in front of the mayor’s house before the vote, on Jan 21, but the city denied them a permit.
“Unlike previous New York City mayors, Mayor Bloomberg lives in a five-story townhouse on the north side of East 79th Street between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue, rather than the Gracie Mansion,” according to the complaint.
Though there is a space near Gracie Mansion commonly used by protesters, the city has barred the plaintiffs from gathering near Bloomberg’s house. The students, parent and teacher say that Bloomberg’s house is fair game because it has been used for fund raisers, meetings with political leaders and receptions for visiting dignitaries.
They say the NYPD allowed people to protest the closing of a firehouse in front of Bloomberg’s house in the summer of 2003. And they add that demonstrations have been permitted in front of the homes of former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, former New York City Fire Department Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta and State Senator Carl Kruger.
The plaintiffs say New York City has violated First and Fourteenth Amendments.
They are represented by Norman Siegel, formerly of the NYCLU.