Pereira Claims Police Harassment At Peaceful Protests

As the community group Faith Acts for Education conducted a forum with members of the Board of Education Monday night at Cathedral of Praise in the South End (see account from executive director below), board member Maria Pereira was outside joined by protesters opposed to the group’s support of charter schools. Pereira asserts it’s become a habit for police officers to show up at her peaceful demonstrations. Cynthia Infante, a member of the District Parent Advisory Council, joined Pereira in protest and filmed the police presence cordial exchanges. Is this harassment? Or are cops just doing their due diligence?

Pereira filed this observation:

This is the video taken by a Bridgeport parent. Myself, two BPS parents, and two district Parent Advisory Council members were peacefully handing out fliers of a great article written by Jonathan Pelto exposing FaithActs for Education and a copy of the recent NAACP press release regarding their resolution supporting a complete nationwide moratorium on any new charter $chools in the U.S. We were handing out the fliers outside the Cathedral of Praise on Monday night regarding the FaithActs for Education BOE Forum. Shortly after both myself and Eric Alicea started handing out fliers outside the parking lot entrance of Cathedral of Praise; a FaithActs member, whom I have known since I was 17 years old, approached us and directed us to move down to the corner. I explained we would do no such thing. I went on to state we have a constitutional right to peacefully assemble on a public sidewalk to hand out fliers. I also pointed out we were not on church property. Four more volunteers arrived to help distribute fliers. Within twenty minutes of speaking with that FaithActs member, SIX police officers, including a supervisor, showed up to harass us, therefore I requested one of the volunteers to begin recording. Both Eric Alicea and myself contacted the BPD regarding Angel Figueroa’s harassment and threats at 1:00 PM on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. Three police officers arrived over FIVE hours later after 6:00 PM. My neighbors had their tires stolen off of their vehicle parked in their driveway overnight, and it was left on cinder blocks. They waited over four hours before giving up. Is this what SIX police officers in the South End should be focused on when we have a significant amount of shootings, murders, robberies, assaults, drug dealing, etc. occurring on a regular basis in the City of Bridgeport? I now have two videos of BPD’s harassment in the last three months. One as I was serving in my official capacity as an elected BOE member attending a peaceful and legally called BOE meeting in which a supervisor directed members of the public to stop recording and reenter the cafeteria in violation of any citizens right to record law enforcement as long as they do not interfere with the work of the police officer(s), and now this video of what can only be described as pure harassment of citizens exercising their constitutional rights to assemble peacefully and exercise their freedom of speech.

Let’s see if it happens a third time. The third time could be the charm.

The Executive Director of FaithActs Jamilah Prince-Stewart shares this account of the evening:

At our Community Forum with the Bridgeport Board of Education, FaithActs members secured public commitments from five board members–a quorum of the group responsible for governing Bridgeport’s school district.

In front of 150 parents, pastors, and community members, members of our Board of Education made the following commitments:
Each marking period, including summer school, I will volunteer one hour of my time inside a Bridgeport public school during school hours, and report back what I did and what I learned at public board meetings.
To ensure the safety and well-being of more than 2,000 students, I will vote to change the minimum distance for elementary school students to qualify for bus transportation from 1.5 miles to 1 mile.
By June 2017, I commit to publish how much is spent per student at each individual school, and to make this information available on the Bridgeport Public Schools website in a way that is accessible to parents, educators, and other Bridgeport residents.
By January 2017, I commit to engage a professionally registered parliamentarian, who is not a member of the Board of Education, to enforce Robert’s Rules of Order at regularly scheduled, public board meetings. (Howard Gardner did not make this commitment.)

Thank you to the Board of Education members who participated: Dennis Bradley, Howard Gardner, Joe Larcheveque, Annette Segarra-Negron, and Ben Walker. Thank you to those who met with FaithActs but were unable to attend the Community Forum: Sauda Baraka and Rafael Fonseca. We look forward to working with all of you and holding you accountable.



  1. Forget the BPD, it is now The Donald vs Maria P.

    Trump intends to nominate billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos for education secretary, turning to a conservative activist who has forcefully pushed for private school voucher programs. Her nomination is expected to face strong opposition from public school advocates, who oppose her efforts to funnel taxpayer dollars from public to private and religious schools.

  2. Lennie,
    I would not define this as a protest. There was no chanting, posters, etc., we were simply handing the attendees fliers as they entered the parking area.

    You can see me approaching a car entering the parking lot, handing the driver a flier, and wishing her a good night.

    Between the five of us handing out the fliers we actually knew a fair amount of the attendees.

    Everyone was courteous and respectful at all times. The only tense exchange was when the FaithActs member attempted to direct us to go down the block to the corner.

  3. Bob,
    Another white billionaire who knows what’s best for impoverished urban minority children attending public schools.

    Do you think this woman has spent one day of her life in the ‘hood? In a predominantly impoverished community?

    Is she even an educator? Time to conduct research.

  4. By Emma Brown November 23 at 3:17pm

    President-elect Donald Trump has named Betsy DeVos, a conservative activist and billionaire philanthropist who has pushed forcefully for private school voucher programs nationwide, as his nominee for education secretary.

    Trump’s pick underlines his promises on the campaign trail to put “school choice”–the expansion of taxpayer-funded charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools–at the center of his efforts on education.

  5. Maria, there is something you should look into.
    Registered 501(c)(3) organizations may conduct gatherings to share information, but they cannot lobby.
    Approaching elected officials for the purpose of encouraging them to vote a particular way is lobbying and violates the guidelines for their tax status.
    There is also a city ordinance addressing guidelines for lobbying city government. Check it out.

    1. Thanks, Tom. I am looking into it. I believe a 501(c)(3) can lobby if they are a registered lobbyist, but I will also contact the IRS to gather some information.

      In addition, I am fairly confident Bradley, Larcheveque, Negron, Gardner and Walker violated the Freedom of Information Act.

      Although board members are allowed to attend gatherings and forums, they cannot discuss BoE matters with a quorum present because it constitutes a “meeting.” In this case the “meeting” would be illegal because a quorum was present, BOE matters and policy were discussed and according to Ms. Stewart BOE members made commitments on how they will vote at future BOE meetings, and Bradley failed to file a meeting notice as required under the FOIA.

      Ms. Stewart is the gift that just keeps giving. I will attach her statement to my formal complaint with the FOI Commission.

      1. I believe you are dead-on correct about there being a quorum. Even if they meet by happenstance they are forbidden from discussing board business regardless of which agency they serve.

  6. We express viewpoints here, right? Not attending public schools is a great reason to make Betsy DeVos our next Education Secretary.

    Her plan would not force parents to change schools it would just give them a choice and isn’t freedom of choice what America is all about?
    With The President’s backing, don’t be surprised if she picks Bridgeport as the place to make her stand and prove her point.

    1. Any attempt by privatizers to take control of the BPS will be met with a court challenge.

      Any parent can choose to send their child to a charter $chool, parochial school, or private school, however their “choice” to do so should not take $1 away from the 21,000 students in TRUE public schools.

    1. The issue is charter schools are not performing better than the public school districts that host them. In Bridgeport all of the Magnet schools perform better than any of the charter schools in the city. The magnet schools take all comers unlike the charter schools. The difference is regardless of the educational outcome some investor and for-profit administration company is making money off the backs of our children. How can that sit well with anyone is beyond me.

      1. It sits well because all Bridgeport schools are not like Magnet schools, just look at the test scores, the failing schools, a dysfunctional Board Of Education but you want Bridgeport students to prepare for life learning in a broken-down system. The only thing in the news about education in Bridgeport is the fighting between the BOE and the mayor and nothing uplifting the students and raising the test scores of the students.

        1. You didn’t address the fact that investors are making money off the backs of our children regardless of educational outcomes in charter schools. That was the crux of my comment. Charters do not do better than public selective schools, yet some uber wealthy individual gets a dividend off those kids’ backs.

          1. You have parents paying taxes but they are not able to benefit from their tax dollars for education because of the failing public schools but they want their children to get a good education so they must pay for their children to attend private schools. Are you suggesting these parents just leave their children in failing schools? America has always believed in choice for everything except education, why? America can find money to kill people around the world but they can’t fund public school education.

  7. My public neighborhood schools are ranked 4 of 10 for elementary and 2 out of 10 for high school.

    It sounds like a productive meeting with constructive commitments made by the board members present.

    Hopefully the Board can start addressing the problem of the poor performance of the schools.

        1. Mr. Murphy,
          We do not have ten high schools. Although Winthrop ranks in the top ten, Multi-cultural School is ranked #1, High Horizons is ranked #2, Park City Magnet is ranked #3, and Discovery is ranked #4.

          1. Ms. Pereira,
            I’m looking at the rating of schools as listed on Zillow; what a potential resident would use when looking to purchase a home.

            The rating is on a scale of one to ten. One is the worst, ten is the best.

            Both schools are getting a failing grade.

          2. Mr. Murphy, that was not clear in your initial posting, however I was referring to the SDOE rankings, which is how schools are ranked by state.

  8. Maria, definitely file an FOI complaint. Board members and those who advise them should know they can have a majority of members at a social event, but they cannot address board business. For an organization to state they have conducted a gathering of board members and received a commitment as board members to support specific actions suggests a violation.
    In my experience, sharing information with elected officials is permissible, but asking for support of a specific position or legislation is lobbying. This may call for more research.

  9. Mr. Murphy, with all due respect, I am not a compensated elected official, therefore if I choose to spend my time filing an FOIA complaint, or any other complaint, that is solely my decision.

    Elected officials are required to follow the laws that govern them, which includes BOE members. And when they blatantly fail to do so, they need to be held accountable.

  10. Ms. Pereira,
    You are of course free to make your own decision on what actions to take.

    As an elected member of the Board of Education, you are responsible for the quality of our schools, which are poorly rated in my neighborhood.

    How you and others on the board spend your time affects the schools in the City of Bridgeport.

    As you file this complaint, children go every day to poorly rated schools.

    My question as I read these articles and discussion is this:
    Is this the best use of resources to improve the education of children in the City of Bridgeport?

    1. Mr. Murphy,
      I am well aware of my responsibilities and the oath I took. In fact, I spend more time on BOE issues than the boycotters (Bradley, Larcheveque, Negron and Fonseca combined).

      May I suggest you spend your time addressing Dennis Bradley, Joe Larcheveque, Annette Segarra-Negron and Raphael Fonseca who have repeatedly failed to fulfill their responsibilities as BOE members and completely abdicated their responsibilities to our over 21,000 students?

      Once again, I, and only I, will make decisions on how I spend my time as an uncompensated member of the BBOE. In fact, I have already spoken with an administrator, a BPS parent, and two DPAC Executive Board members today regarding a variety of issues impacting our true public school students.

      I will now focus my attention on editing my FOI complaint, which is solely my prerogative.


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