The Whittier Elementary School field house is a low-slung structure just west of the main school building, at 1900 W. 23rd Street, in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. For the past 10 days and nights, mothers of Whittier students and community supporters have occupied the building with the hope of saving it from the wrecking ball and rehabbing it into a new library. Here, Evelin Santos, a community member working with the mothers occupying the field house, talks about how the building's been used historically. The video is from inside the disputed structure:
While the Whittier occupation is the latest example of Chicago's Southwest Side Latino communities using direct action to fight for their children's educational future, the endgame here is somewhat unclear. Chicago Public Schools says the building is structurally unsound and needs to come down. The Whittier protestors hired their own engineering firm to consider the building's safety and say the company's findings conclude the building could stay up (though the ultimate interpretation of that report has been disputed). A third report, paid for by CPS, now is on its way.
The protest is taking a political turn, as well. This morning, the Whittier protestors turned their ire toward 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis, who represents Pilsen in the City Council. They demanded Solis support an indefinite stop to the demolition and warned the longterm alderman about how the situation could affect his standing in the 2011 municipal elections. Here's Santos from this morning and a clip of the marchers who walked to Solis' office:
Maya Solis, a spokeswoman from Solis' office, said the alderman would wait until the third report is issued before his office makes any final determination about the field house. That could prove a difficult position politically as the 2011 city campaigns roll into gear, assuming Solis runs for another council term. How big this battle becomes remains to be seen. For now, at least, all eyes are on the Whittier Elementary field house.