Parents, students and teachers protested at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce in part of a national action to demand equity for students. Protestors are demanding the police are defunded, that police are out of schools, and making sure students don’t return to schools until health experts confirm that it’s safe.
Police are criminalizing students, says Director of Operations and Campaign at L.A. Students Deserve Joseph Williams. “In LAUSD, Black students are only 8% of the student population, but they’ve been 25% and 30% of all contacts, citations, and arrests by L.A. school police. We know that Black student achievement has been one of the lowest rates on all of LAUSD.”
Williams infers that LAUSD refuses to invest in Black student success and instead is investing in prioritizing the criminalization of Black students. They are calling out and demanding the school district to move towards police free schools and funding the allocation of resources that students deserve. Williams also mentions they are calling out state legislators and people in power to tax the rich so that the schools can get the resources they need.
The protestors are fighting for racial equality. Their claim is that the Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of businesses and corporations. They recently voted against Proposition 15, which is directly against the interests and needs of schools, communities and youth, Williams tells the L.A. Sentinel. “We’re seeing that they are choosing billionaires instead of choosing what our schools and students need. We’re here to call them out for that.”
Student leader and rising-senior at Girls Academic Leadership Academy, Kahlila Williams, expressed her frustrations. She feels that the Chamber of Commerce focuses on the rich. Williams tells the L.A. Sentinel, “We’re calling on them to fund students and not billionaires. For years, students in Black and Brown communities have faced [the] inequality of LAUSD and our California businesses. They need to pay up and start funding our schools.”
Not every student in LAUSD has equitable access to online learning and that’s what they are pushing for. Students in Black and Brown communities are being disproportionately affected by this pandemic and LAUSD, the rising senior,, Williams states. “For online learning, we need the resources and that access and we can’t do that if we are not being funded. We’re calling out the Chamber of Commerce, that’s why we’re calling out (Austin) Beutner. We’re asking them to fund us and they need to fund us,” says Williams.
“The time is up for neglecting our communities. The time is up for criminalizing our students. The time is for billionaires not paying their fair share,” says UTLA President and Activist Cecily Myart-Cruz. She indicates it’s the perfect time to stand up and speak truth in power.” Myart-Cruz passionately states, “In words of the late John Lewis, let us get in the way and demand change.”
Along with the students, parents, and teachers, there was a long line of protesters in their cars that marched over to LAUSD headquarters to provide a letter demanding justice. As protesters walked the streets of downtown, cars were honking with their signs supporting the movement and chants of “Defund the police! Defund the police! Defund the police!“ yelled as they approached LAUSD headquarters.
Late Sunday night, UTLA and LAUSD reached a tentative agreement on distance learning that meets UTLA’s top needs of protecting the health of staff and students. They will have a “smart start” to the school year and will put more emphasis on socio-emotional support and strengthen technology support. The agreement will go to the LAUSD School Board next week for a vote.