With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rahm's Army

A busload of paid counter- protesters headed to school closings hearings from St. Stephen's church in Englewood.
It's tough times in the Windy City. Unemployment's high, especially for black youth. The church-run social-service agencies are jumping. Conditions are ripe for recruitment to the mayor's new army of rent-a-protesters to counter the growing mass resistance to neighborhood school closings. Chicago political machine hustlers like Englewood's Rev. Roosevelt Watkins III, do the mayor's dirty work in exchange for control of poverty funds and side money from the mayor's wealthy pals and charter school patrons.

Watkins' job is to fill buses with hungry men like Thaddeus Scott, 35 who come to his HOPE Organization looking for financial help with their energy bills only to be promised $50 if they will attend school-related “rallies” at the board of education. The slick Watkins, pastor of Bethlehem Star M.B. Church and founder of Pastors United for Change denies they were paid to protest, saying money paid was "for training".

Scott and other recruits say they didn’t realize until the last minute that they were supposed to support school closings. One said he was promised $50 to speak at a rally “for schools,” but was stiffed $25 after Watkins complained he had publicly revealed at the hearing he was “compensated” for speaking. Many of the recruits end up switching sides and join the community protests in speaking out against the closings. Others earn their money by trying to start a brawl and disrupt the legitimate protests.
“I don’t want the $25 he owes me,” Scott, 35, told the Sun-Times. “He can keep his dirty money. You can quote that. “Why am I speaking out? Because I am in support of Crane [the high school whose closure he says he was supposed to support]. . . .“They thought for a few dollars they could get us to say whatever they want. . . . We were preyed upon.”
Stipends for training, indeed.

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