FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GEO at UIC statement in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.
The University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate Employees Organization (UIC-GEO), IFT/AFT AFL-CIO Local 6297 stands in firm solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, and the over 200 other Indigenous Nations, that oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). It is our firmly held belief that the sovereignty and governance of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation land comes from, and can only be decided by, the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.
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The GEO Steering Committee recently signed in support of the Bluest Lie Campaign, a campaign against the potential introduction of the so-called Blue Lives Matter ordinance to the Chicago City Council. This proposed ordinance would categorize offenses committed against police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians as hate crimes. It distorts the purpose of hate crime legislation and we cannot sit idly by as it is discussed in our city government.
Currently, Illinois uses the hate crime designation to prosecute offenses committed on the basis of “actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin.” Attacks against police and other first responders are already classified by Illinois law as aggravated assault and therefore carry stricter penalties than assaults against civilians. Police are also protected by their unions and by city and state officials and enjoy protections far above those of regular citizens.
Bills similar to Chicago’s proposed “Blue Lives Matter” ordinance have recently been introduced in states and cities around the country, even though attacks against police are at record lows. These bills constitute a hostile right-wing reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement and to increasing calls for police accountability and racial justice. Nationally, as well as locally, the bills are opposed by a variety of civil rights and social justice organizations, including: Black Youth Project 100, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Assata’s Daughters, American Civil Liberties Union, Uptown People’s Law Center, and the Anti-Defamation League. In Chicago, many of these groups have come together to form the Bluest Lie Collaborative.
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The Graduate Employees Organization (Local 6297, IFT/AFT, AFL-CIO) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC GEO) stands in solidarity with the parents and community members who are now on a hunger strike to protest the closing of Walter H. Dyett High School. We demand that Chicago Public Schools accept the coalition’s proposal to establish the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School.
CPS has shuttered too many public, community schools in black and brown neighborhoods in order to pass public funds to private firms. Dyett is the last remaining open enrollment high school in Bronzeville. It is unacceptable that many students on the South and West Sides have to commute long distances outside of their neighborhoods just to attend quality public schools. CPS has disinvested in schools in minority neighborhoods while North Side schools, such as Lincoln and Coonley Elementaries, receive millions in funding. The gross disparity in funding allocations and the mass school closings in 2013 demonstrate that Mayor Emanuel and CPS are committed to continuing a legacy of corrupt and racist decisions about public education. We demand that Chicago invest in every neighborhood and every child.
The need for high quality and accessible neighborhood schools that are open to all is a critical concern for Chicago residents. The Dyett hunger strikers have put their bodies on the line in order to be heard by political leaders in charge of our children’s schools. We respect and admire them for their commitment to making a better future for young Chicagoans. CPS must take action immediately to restore access to education in the Bronzeville neighborhood, and must do so in accord with the thoughtful and equitable proposals generated by this coalition.
The GEO is the union that represents teaching and graduate assistants at UIC. Many of our undergraduate students come from Chicago Public Schools. We understand firsthand the importance of a primary and secondary education that will prepare students to be successful in college. Chicago and Illinois need to invest in public education for the future of our state, but even more importantly, because well-resourced and well-funded schools are the foundation of strong communities and a strong democracy.
End the hunger strike by restoring Dyett High School to the Bronzeville community now!