The union that represents Los Angeles public school teachers will co-sponsor a rally next month with Black Lives Matter, the ACLU, and other groups that have been organizing students against the district’s police force.
Titled “Making Black Lives Matter in Schools,” the demonstration on February 24 will feature a live performance by Common, a multi-faceted entertainer who has been using his musical talent to promote radical reforms to California’s criminal justice system.
United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) recently posted the details on its website, tucked away in next month’s calendar of upcoming events. The union speaks for upwards of 33,000 employees, most of whom are responsible for educating the more than 640,000 students enrolled in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
A flyer encourages students to gather on the south quadrangle at Los Angeles Trade Technical College to “join the next round of our fight to end random searches and criminalization,” while calling for “community schools funding.” The bottom of the announcement reads, “We have nothing to lose but our chains,” a quote often recited by Black Lives Matter activists to honor Assata Shakur, who was part of a revolutionary extremist group called the Black Liberation Army. Among the FBI’s “Most Wanted,” Shakur escaped from prison in 1979 while serving a life sentence for the murder of a New Jersey state trooper. She is living in communist Cuba under political asylum.
As The Daily Wire reported one week ago, the drive to end LAUSD’s mandatory random search policy is part of an incremental strategy by some activists to completely remove police stationed throughout the nation’s second-largest public education system.
On a recent talk show, youth-organizers discussed their work toward “abolishing policing” in LAUSD institutions. The activists represented the Black Lives Matter Youth Vanguard and an education reform group called Schools L.A. Students Deserve, which is also a co-sponsor of next month’s rally. During the discussion, the leader of Black Lives Matter’s L.A. chapter referenced “taking an abolitionist approach, and beginning by ending random searches.”
Opponents of the existing policy claim it is racist, disproportionately targeting students of color. Black Lives Matter, Schools L.A. Students Deserve, the ACLU, and other allies organized a similar demonstration last May outside LAUSD headquarters, demanding an end to “policies that criminalize” non-white schoolkids. An English teacher employed by the district took to the microphone, galvanizing the students in attendance. “We’re going to get these cops out of our schools, and we’re going to end these random searches, and we’re going to be proud to be black and brown,” she declared.
Although UTLA was not an official co-sponsor of last year’s protest, the union endorsed the upcoming rally in February “to affirm the humanity of our students, teach students to oppose racism” and “fight the school to prison pipeline and end random searches in LAUSD schools.”
Patrisse Cullors, a police abolitionist who is also a founder of Black Lives Matter, is advertised as a featured speaker. She has been touring the country promoting her new book, “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir,” which is currently number 12 on the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover nonfiction.
UTLA has a history of uniting with Black Lives Matter. In 2016, the two groups co-sponsored the first Black Lives Matter event held inside an L.A. public school. Students, parents, and faculty filled an auditorium where the conversation focused on the over-policing of several campuses.
“It’s about having a movement, not a moment,” Cecily Myart-Cruz, a vice president for both UTLA and the National Education Association, told KCAL-9 Los Angeles at the time.
Last Wednesday, UTLA leaders passed a motion to endorse the Black Lives Matter in Schools National Week of Action, February 5 – 9.
UPDATE: After publication, Common’s name was removed from the list of “live performances” posted on UTLA’s website and the promotional flyer, replaced with “street dance activism.”
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.