Chicago cops, ordered by the Board of Education, searched and patted down every student entering the building that day. They threw many against lockers, insulted them, and groped them. Some students were strip-searched, and at least one young woman had a chunk of hair pulled out by the roots, leaving a bleeding scalp.
Eighty-two students were arrested: a few for having knives, box cutters or some marijuana, and most for carrying pagers. Some were held well into the night. Even those who were not arrested were penned up under police guard in the lunchroom and the auditorium. Classes were canceled. The phones were taped up and students weren't even allowed to go to the bathroom.
For nearly three hours, the school was a jail.
All the students and many teachers were outraged. Within hours, three petitions were circulating at the school. One attacked the "no pager" law as stupid and unfair. Another angrily demanded some answers about what the cops had done, adding a complaint about two school employees (a dean and a security guard) who routinely mistreat students. The third petition simply said, "Walk Out!"
Several dozen students did walk out the next day. Many more were ready to, but a lack of clear leadership held them back from pushing past the administrators and security guards who were barring every door. Those who walked out were not discouraged by the small showing. They came back to school the next day with leaflets calling for a larger walkout.
This struggle is far from over. The cops will return, and the next time students will be better prepared, tactically and politically. Meanwhile, 12 students have been suspended and still face criminal charges and expulsion hearings. The PLP, along with other members of several school clubs, are organizing students and teachers to go to court with them on January 23rd.
As a PLP leaflet, written by students and headlined, "We Are Not The Criminals," put it: "They [cops and bosses] make it seem like they're the only people we can turn to and trust. But they're really there to make us scared of them, horrified of them. We need to try to trust each other and turn the guns on them. That's why we were all searched on Monday-because they are afraid of us."
A second leaflet explained more. "A society that cuts children off welfare and is preparing to send tens of thousand of youth to kill and die in a Mideast Oil War isn't sending police terror into the schools for the benefit of the students. They are building fascism.
"The bosses' profit system is in crisis and this crisis is leading to war. Bosses in the U.S. and around the world have a hard time winning workers and youth to be loyal supporters of a system with growing racism, unemployment and cutbacks in every social service from health care to education. So they must threaten students into submission."