OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Police cleared a sit-in protest Tuesday that has been under way for 17 days at an Oakland elementary school.
The sit-in at Lakeview Elementary School started last month in reaction to the district’s decision to close five elementary schools, including Lakeview.
Oakland school district police arrived at the site shortly before 4 a.m. and told protesters to leave the premises, district spokesman Troy Flint said.
Most of the people there dispersed over the next two hours, but a few who were not at the school when police arrived are returning Tuesday to collect their belongings, Flint said.
Two protesters who indicated that they did not intend leave were arrested shortly after 6 a.m., Flint said.
“Even though the squatters were trespassing, we allowed them to stay for 17 days to make their point,” he said. “Finally we moved in because we have to begin with preparations for the next school year.”
Rebecca Rozo-Marsh, an Oakland resident and a teacher in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, said about 20 protesters were on the campus at the time of the raid, including three children who she said were frightened by the officers’ actions.
After the raid, “No Trespassing” signs were put up on the campus, Marsh said.
Over the past two weeks, parents, teachers and community members have set up a free camp at Lakeview called “The People’s School for Public Education,” to educate students about social justice, arts and gardening, while continuing to draw attention to the closures.
The school closed its doors to students at the end of this school year, and the building will be re-purposed as offices for the school district’s family services unit.
The district plans to house the district’s enrollment office, translation office and anti-violence unit there among other offices, Flint said.
He said the decision to close Lakeview and the other schools was made because Oakland currently serves 17,000 fewer students than it did 10 years ago, and the elementary schools needed to be consolidated to provide better services. The other elementary schools closed are Maxwell Park, Lazear, Santa Fe and Marshall.
“Right now we’re spread too thin to serve students properly,” Flint said.
Marsh said the protest is not over.
“This is part of a nationwide movement that has been going on before this and will continue to go on after this,” she said.
As many as 40 people had been camping at Lakeview Elementary throughout the protest, and others visited during the days when protesters held larger rallies and summer school classes.
Marsh said the movement is gaining power and that the goal is to reopen the schools or have Superintendent Tony Smith resign.
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