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Union activists butt heads over protest tactics at PEP meeting

A disagreement over how to protest last night’s Panel for Educational Policy meeting spilled onto the sidewalk less than two hours before the event started.

In the video above, Brian Jones, a teacher activist affiliated with the Grassroots Education Movement makes a last-ditch effort to form a unified front with the teachers union against the city’s policy of closing schools. He confronted Leo Casey, a vice president in the United Federation of Teachers and asked him why the union had refused to join his group.

The UFT planned to hold their own policy meeting at a school down the road and said they would not even attend the PEP. GEM, on the other hand, was joining a larger protest that included Occupy DOE factions and students organized by the Coalition for Educational Justice. The plan was to remain in the Brooklyn Tech auditorium for the event’s entirety and disrupt it through the ‘people’s mic.’

“All of your allies are coming to our plan, so what’s the point sticking to [your plan]?” Jones asked Casey, as dozens of protesters behind him began chanting that they would not walk out. “The NAACP is going to be inside with us. Why are you going to be outside?”

Casey said that GEM activists were welcome to join the UFT in their event, but he said he didn’t appreciate a series of critical blog posts that appeared this week about the union’s strategy.

“We have had four days of being attacked on the internet by Norm Scott,” Casey said. “Look, if you don’t want to work with us, that’s fine. But to do all of these attacks on the union on the internet?”

The UFT eventually abandoned the plan to head to an alternate school location and arrived about an hour into the panel meeting. It was too late for them to sign up to speak and they were ushered upstairs to the auditorium’s second level. Many left an hour later.

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