Residents of New York City’s Harlem neighborhood were not happy to see Paul Ryan on Tuesday, May 9th.
Hundreds of protesters hit the streets chanting “How can you sleep at night? – Health care is a human right!” They were outraged about the ‘Trumpcare’ bill that Ryan has championed, which threatens to take away health insurance for millions of Americans and will be especially harmful to women, the elderly, the poor, and people with pre-existing conditions.
When Ryan entered the charter school, Success Academy, where he was scheduled to speak, the crowd chanted “Shame! Shame!”
And protesters brought handmade signs reading “Paul Ryan has no conscience,” “I am a pre-existing condition,” and “Ryan, you’re making us sick!”
Paul Ryan was invited to Success Academy by Eva Moskowitz, the charter school’s founder and CEO. Moskowitz has been criticized for her vocal support of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her defense of Donald Trump. Ivanka Trump has also toured the school since her father’s election.
The protest, which was organized with less than 24 hours notice, developed a two-part agenda. One target was Ryan’s health care bill, but it was also a perfect chance to draw attention to New Yorkers’ frustrations over school privatization under the leadership of individuals like Moscowitz. Many protesters spoke to the negative effects of privatization on communities of color in particular.
A mother whose child had attended Success Academy spoke her frustrations with the school during the rally . She said her son had been disciplined excessively at the school and, by the end of 5th grade, had become suicidal.
“That should show you what it means to be a black child in a charter school, and get left by the wayside,” she said, breaking down in tears. [1:23:00 in video below]
Success Academy has come under fire in recent years for its ‘zero-tolerance’ policy toward student misbehavior, resulting in higher rates of suspension than are common in public schools. Eva Moskowitz has defended the policy, saying it creates “ord
er and civility in the classroom, but many believe the true reason for the policy is to push unsuccessful kids back into the public schools and preserve high test scores at Success Academy.
Zakiah Ansari, Advocacy Director at the Alliance for Quality Education also offered a powerful indictment of Eva Moscowitz [1:05:45 in video below]. “In her school [Moscowitz] claims to educate black and brown kids,” she said “But is it really about using our black and brown children as political pawns in her political agenda to privatize schools?… I have to say yes.”
Other speakers urged protesters to continue raising their voices against the health care bill and school privatization.