Other DOE employees, public school students and their parents also took place in the protest.
The meeting was an open mic event of sorts, where people stood up and spoke about various issues they have with the education system. But instead of a microphone, they used what the Occupy Wall Street protesters call the “human microphone,” where each sentence a speaker shouted was repeated back by the crowd.
Among the issues raised were budget cuts, charter schools, privatization of schools and extra-curricular activities.
“For far too long, the Department of Education has divided us,” demonstrators chanted.
A common theme was frustration over having no voice and dissatisfaction with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s near-absolute control of the schools.
“A lot of people got a chance, first of all, to know that we are all on the same page. We are all tired and disgusted and we know now that we exist in great numbers than we thought. And while we used to be isolated, now we will begin to come together,” said teacher Jennifer Saunders.
“The purpose of the meeting was to actually have a space for parents, teachers and students to begin discussing democratically what we want in public education, because right now there is no venue where that can actually happen,” said teacher Megan Behrent.
On October 25, this group used the same call-and-repeat technique at a parent meeting that Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott was holding on changes to the curriculum. The protesters drowned out the official meeting and the chancellor was forced to relocate.
“So we decided that we would come to the DOE, so Chancellor Walcott wouldn’t be able to run away scared,” protesters chanted Monday night.
Demonstrators said they hope to have many more similar meetings, using the culture and tactics of Occupy Wall Street but focusing on education issues and that they are already planning their next DOE occupation.