City official: school protesters left on their own

UPDATE, 9:30 p.m.

No way: the protesters were not evicted, said Mark McDonald, Mayor Nutter's spokesman.

McDonald said the protesters were told at about 6 p.m. that they needed to leave.  At about 7:15, well after the mayor and most city employees had left for the day, they were given the same message.  They would be escorted out, but were welcome to return Wednesday, officials told the group.

"I think they were disappointed that they weren't going to be arrested," McDonald said Tuesday night.

At 7:30, when officials came out again to talk to the group, it was gone.

"They had left on their own," said McDonald, who said he was puzzled at the group's description of the event. 

"It's a strange use of the English language," he said.  "There was no force involved.  They understood that they needed to go.  They can be here all day tomorrow."


My colleague Troy Graham reported earlier that folks opposed to Philadelphia school closings - including Helen Gym of Parents United for Public Education and local NAACP president J. Whyatt Mondesire - were staging a sit-in outside the mayor's office.  They aimed to "be a firm presence until the vote on Thursday," Gym told me.  "This is not just about the schools, it's about the city."

It looked for a while like the activists might be arrested.  But after conferring with police and huddling amongst themselves, they were "forcibly evicted" instead, said Craig Robbins, executive director of Action United, who was present.

"It's going to be shy of an arrest," Robbins said.

Members of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, which Action United belongs to, will spend tomorrow getting ready for Thursday's School Reform Commission vote on the closings, said Robbins. The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., and anti-closing folks are planning a massive pre-meeting rally.  National AFT president Randi Weingarten is expected to be in town.

So yes, I have a feeling it's going to be an eventful week. Stay tuned.