More than 100 cars bearing signs saying “More resources, less lawsuits”; “Fund our schools”; and “Fund our communities” traveled through San Francisco Feb. 10. The Make Our Schools and Communities Safe caravan was called in response to City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s announcement that the City would sue the school district to reopen schools.
Herrera, with the backing of Mayor London Breed, announced the suit on Feb. 3. He has since expanded the lawsuit. Both he and Breed are playing political theater with educators’ and students’ lives while doing little to address the multiple crises working people in this city face.
On Feb. 9, Breed said, “We support our teachers, we support our educators, we want them to be safe but we also know our children are broken.” Teachers and families spoke out to reject the false notion that a lawsuit and numerous attacks from city politicians and the SF Chronicle are a solution to the crisis we face. In the words of one teacher who attended: ”Our children are not broken. Our children, our families and our education workers are doing the best they can with little to no support in the face of a deep, deep crisis.”
There is much the city could do to mitigate that crisis but nowhere on that list is a lawsuit. San Francisco is an immensely affluent city in a resource-rich state in an incredibly wealthy country. There is no excuse. The city could pool resources and mobilize its efforts to expand vaccine distribution, to cancel the rents and mortgages, to provide sick and hazard pay for essential workers, and provide substantive relief for workers and families who need to quarantine or have lost income.
The car caravan made this clear. A short bilingual English-Spanish opening rally featured parents and educators speaking to their experiences during the pandemic and with the city, state and national negligence that has led to such suffering.
A single mother spoke about trying to run a small business and care for her children with no relief. An educator from Buena Vista Horace Mann Middle School spoke to the many efforts his school community has made before the pandemic including providing shelter to homeless families, marching against the detention of children and the attacks on immigrants, and so much more. After pointing out that city politicians weren’t there when all of this was being done, he spoke to the efforts on the parts of educators in San Francisco to donate their stimulus checks to undocumented workers, to keep our communities safe, and to teach in challenging circumstances.
In an impressive show of unity and protest, car after car lined up behind a truck bearing a banner reading “Make our schools and communities safe” to travel together through the Mission District and Castro toward the Haight. On every street the caravan passed, people came out of their homes to support and cheer on the demonstration, underscoring the reality that the people of San Francisco stand with the teachers and families in this struggle.
The demonstration brought a response from educators under attack to Breed’s house: “We have done the work, from our classrooms to the bargaining table to our communities, now we are asking you to do the work. What is your plan for vaccines, for taking care of the people?”
The caravan made it clear that educators and families unite in advocating for a safe return to the school buildings. When our communities receive the relief they need and are safe, our schools can be safe too.
Photos: Rosa Astra