On behalf of the people of New York City, the Panel for Educational Police (PEP) assembled on the evening of February 9. On behalf of the people of New York City, it deliberated the closure of 23 city schools. And on behalf of the people of New York City, it ignored the thousands of parents, students, teachers and taxpayers who had come to protest and axed the schools anyway. Democracy in action.
Apart from the balcony, the Brooklyn Technical High School auditorium (which seats 3,100) was packed when I arrived. The security detail roaming the aisles dutifully dispensed their pro forma pleas that those in the aisle find a seat, but they knew their task was Sisyphean: no one had a seat. Virtually everyone was standing, chanting, holding signs, condemning the proceedings by way of the people's mike and roundly booing each of the panel's suits for silence.
These were the only indication the panel gave those in attendance that they even knew a protest was in progress. For the most part, they proceeded through the minutiae of the event, droning on over the amplification system, charging inexorably toward what everyone knew was a foregone conclusion. That this whole hearing was proceeding patently without the consent of the governed seemed more or less irrelevant to the panel, which never bothered to identify the counter-constituency, New Yorkers against the closing down of the schools. Amid the unrelenting din, one panelist, called on to testify, replied, "I'm sorry, I can't hear anything," to which the exasperated chairman responded, "Welcome to the club!"