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.