Thoughts and Pics of the San Diego Teachers’ Rally

by on May 14, 2011 · 25 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, Education, Labor, Organizing, Popular, San Diego

The huge crowd of a couple thousand, as viewed from the stage. The pink flags represent pink slips received by over 4100 teachers from Southern California. (All photos by Frank Gormlie.)

Since Andy Cohen covered the meat and potatoes of the teachers’ “State of Emergency” rally already, I wanted to share some other thoughts about the event and display a sampling of the  numerous photos I took yesterday, Friday the 13th while at the Embarcadero in downtown San Diego.

Crowd bound for the rally.

When I heard that the rally was going to be at the Embarcadero, I told Patty that parking would be horrendous downtown and next to impossible, so we agreed to take the trolley from Lemon Grove.  She wrapped up our banner, we gathered our camera and notepad, and we hopped the 3:44 pm trolley (although by time it got to us, it was 3:50). After grabbing our seats, we looked around and saw several women wearing red T-shirts that spelled out “STOP” – Students and Teachers Our Priority.  And during the ride downtown, we heard several guys who were standing up having quite an intellectual conversation – even hearing the name “Chomsky” come bouncing out. Are these teachers? we wondered on their way to the rally.

Sure enough, once the trolley pulled up to the Seaport Marina station, the entire car stood up and got off.  And everyone began heading to the Embarcadero. This was great! I thought.  An entire trolley from east county going to the same rally. As we crossed the tracks and Harbor Drive, we were a march in and of ourselves.

The "counter-demonstration" just a few minutes before they were to begin. The woman in red is the Koch brothers' rep.

As our little parade moved into the park, I took a right turn and headed over to the counter-rally.  I had heard the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, the Young Republicans, and some tea party types were going to be holding a nearby demonstration against us and the teachers.  A protest of the protest.  As I approached this sideshow, I noticed almost more video cameras than people.  Once in their midst, I did count twelve actual counter-demonstrators.  A red-suited woman was bouncing around, saying she represented Americans for Prosperity. I asked her when her rally was going to begin.  At 5 she said.  One guy asked who I was – I had an OB Rag T-shirt on and was taking photos, and he showed me his sign.  Later, I heard that their gig attracted somewhere between several dozen (U-T estimate) and about a hundred (estimate from a reporter).

Moving away from the tea partiers, I approached the main event and witnessed streams of folks – many in red shirts – pouring into the green east end of the Embarcadero.  On the way there were small tables with mountains of water bottles and snacks being given away.  Nice touch, I thought.

I also noticed there was about a dozen Harbor Patrol and City police in the vicinity.  Just then, a police lieutenant walked up to me, and profusely thanked me for providing “the only information out there” about this event.  That was kind of weird but I politely thanked him for that.  And when I reunited with Patty who was holding our banner, she told me that one of the rally organizers had told her that the police were asking about us. “OB Rag – who are they?” It’s always good to be noticed.

Patty found a small hill just west of the main stage and planted herself and the banner.  I went about taking photos and attempted to do a head count.  This was very difficult as people were still moving into the park and rally area. I gave up after counting 1500.

There was a steel drum trio pounding out music, while the 4100 tiny pink flags fluttered in the wind.  Two dozen students held signs with large letters proclaiming their opposition to ed cuts standing toward the crowd.  I climbed up on the stage to take some more crowd shots.

Bill Freeman, head of the San Diego teachers' union.

I found Bill Freeman, head of the teachers’ union. I asked him how many people were expected, and he said 3 thousand. I then asked him why the Embarcadero had been chosen as the rally point.  He replied that if it had been up to him, he would have gone for a more public site, but that CTA had chosen this particular one.

Finding Patty once again atop her hill, most of the crowd in that area were sitting on the grass. I joined them for the duration. Some OBcians joined us as well and took their positions on the green along side us.

There were a hell of a lot of people at this event. Many wore red-shirts, some light-blue ones as well.  “We are one” was a favorite slogan on many of them. Many teacher groups sat together and whenever their school was mentioned from the podium, they would let out a holler.  This gathering should really send a message.  It was a rare occasion that this many teachers from all over the counties of Southern California were coming together.

Once the speakers started, there much applause, although only a few chants. Teachers are great, I thought, but they sure are subdued, even the many younger ones who were there.  I compared them with the more militant Labor Council rally we attended back in late February, in front of the County building.  But still, it was a wonderful showing overall.

Our good friend Gregg Robinson was one of the last speakers.  Gregg wrote for this blog when we first began, and is known for being a good speaker.  And today’s performance was not disappointing.  He by far gave the most fired up speech of the rally.  “Don’t let anyone tell you there’s no money for education!” he yelled out from the stage to an appreciative audience.

Gregg Robinson - at podium with arms folded - waiting to speak.

As the rally broke up, we headed back to the trolley and got on it. Our car was loaded with participants from the event all the way back east to the hinterlands.  Trolley regulars looking for seats in a usually empty early evening Friday car must have freaked out. I didn’t know there was a Padres game, they probably thought.

There is a state of emergency – in education – but not just in education. It’s all over.  One way to look at it, is that it’s so bad, even teachers are rallying.  Teachers up and down the state were heard this week.  Over two dozen were even arrested up in Sacramento, including their state union president.

Teachers have to continue to reach out, and stand with their fellow public union colleagues. We must continue to develop a genuine community-labor coalition for San Diego, and this was one more step – a giant step – in that direction.

Here are more pics.  Remember to click on them for a larger image.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

doug porter May 14, 2011 at 2:07 pm

ha! even the cops are getting hip to the fact that if you want info on what’s really going on in our town, ya turn to the OB Rag. the cops are also in line for getting screwed by the corporate dingleberries posing as Americans for Prosperity.


barbara May 14, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Frank, great pics and a nice write up for those of us who could not go. I was stunned to hear there would be counter protesters against the teachers! Don’t their kids go to school? Don’t they all have a teacher held fondly in their heart from years gone by? I heard an interview on PBS with a tea bagger who said “teachers were greedy and destroying the country!” Special Ed is getting hit especially hard. One teacher, 2 aids for 15 pre-schoolers with autism? And now they are being told they must take another 15 days unpaid leave. Disgusting.


Avery May 16, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Sad that because my daughter goes to school in this district I cannot supp0rt the efforts. Our experience has been that one teacher with terrible classroom manners (bullying, name-calling, etc.) sours the pot for all the others. If the system could be completely dismantled and rebuilt in a manner that would reward good teachers and allow for the removal of bad ones, I’d be all in. As it stands, because this teacher has so deeply affected my daughter’s interest level in school, I absolutely will not support handing any more money over to the folks who hired this woman and who apparently refuse to remedy the situation. How many others like her are poisoning the system and ruining children’s lives? Hate to be a downer, but there is a flip side to your Pollyanna-esque view of teachers.


barbara May 16, 2011 at 5:36 pm

There are bad apples in any profession. Should all doctors get a pay cut b/c of one bad one? All cops? All firemen? All IRS agents? All Homeland Security people? We are talking taking away wages and promised benefits. This is not really about teachers, they are the scapegoats for this republican take down of unions, that’s it!
Why the snark? Pollyanna? I raised 4 kids, fostered scores and now am caring for grandkids. Think I have been around teachers a lot. The good far outweigh the bad.


Avery May 17, 2011 at 7:07 am

The system is broken. Throwing money at a broken system won’t fix it. Until bad teachers can be fired and good teachers can be paid more, throwing more money at it won’t help.


doug porter May 17, 2011 at 8:18 am

so, let me get this straight:
1. your kid had a bad experience with a teacher.
2. no charter or magnet schools were available as an alternative.
3. this means that the entire system is rotten and must be dismantled.
4. all the other kids who are doing well and have good teachers must suffer so you can have your revenge.


Avery May 17, 2011 at 9:38 am

Does assuming I am a short-sighted, mean-spirited woman of questionable character in any way defend either position here?
A different point of view can be valid even if you or I disagree with it.
@barbara’s comment led me to believe she didn’t understand how anyone could disagree with the rally. I responded with my reasons for not supporting it, along with the current situation my daughter is facing as an example.
My older two children managed to survive a few bad teachers and still earned spots at top universities. Long-term experiences within the education system (and one of my children has Asperger’s) led me to believe that the system itself is dysfunctional, and I chose to share that opinion.


RB May 17, 2011 at 10:39 am

Every parent should have choices in the education of their child. The choices should include neighborhood schools, magnet schools, charter schools, different teachers, public or private schools. The most appropriate environment for students, rather then adult jobs programs, should be at the core of a US educational system. Parents and students should not be forced into a system that rewards tenure rather than performance.


Avery May 17, 2011 at 11:45 am



barbara May 17, 2011 at 11:50 am

On “bad” teachers. My son had one in 5th grade. I moved him into another class. Two years later my daughter got the same teacher. The difference was that my daughter loved this woman. She thrived in her class. Bad is in the eyes of the beholder.


barbara May 17, 2011 at 9:42 am

clap, clap,clap, Mr Doug Porter


Frank Gormlie May 17, 2011 at 9:44 am

If you are a true bohemian, you’d go “snap, snap, snap”.


barbara May 17, 2011 at 9:47 am

snapping, clapping and cartwheeling for Mr Porter’s crafty retort


Frank Gormlie May 14, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Here’s a good write-up of rally by PatchLemonGrove w/ great pic of Robinson :


Andy Cohen May 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Apparently one of the guys associated with Americans for Prosperity pegged the total number of counter-protesters at around 50……..TOTAL! And as I wrote in my story, unlike the AFP crowd, none of the teachers or those associated with them showed up chauffeured in a limousine. The teachers didn’t have expensive props custom made for the event like the Koch crowd did with their inflatable ATM machine, either. Remind me again who the “grass roots” groups are?

Silly teabaggers……..


Virginia Franco May 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I’m really sorry I could not be there; and still weepy-eyed here at home.

Thank you, Frank for sending this notice around

Virginia Franco


ss May 16, 2011 at 8:27 am

Nice story and pics Thanks. I can’t understand why the powers that be want to cut schools and teachers. Evean they learned what they know from teachers obviously they missed a little. That profession is the foundation of a civil society and like a building with out s good foundation it will fail.


barbara May 16, 2011 at 10:19 am

I have read several stories on this surge of union busting and demonizing public employees. Teachers are just a by product of the actual goal. Republicans are out to diminish the democratic party in any way they can. Unions are a huge source of money for democratic candidates. With the citizens united ruling the door is open for huge corporate donors even more than before. So, if they can break up the biggest and most generous unions, the money for democratic candidates dries up. American Assn of Firefighters has already withdrawn money from dem party. Why? Because dems are not fighting back against this attempt at union busting. Really interesting.


The Mustachioed OBecian May 17, 2011 at 11:52 am

Perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that unions are a huge contributor to democratic candidates in the sense that their officials are. Unfortunately, individual union members have no choice in how their dues are allocated.

I’m not so sure why it’s a problem to hold teachers accountable. Sure, there are great teachers, but there are also plenty of awful teachers. There isn’t too much accountability within the ranks of the schools. Once you reach your tentured lot, you’re in good shape and are able to generally coast until retirement at full pay. Not too shabby. Instead of throwing so much money at schools, maybe we should take a step back and review where all of our tax money goes. It certainly isn’t the case that the more money that we spend, the higher the return on students’ futures. But then again, that’s generally been the go-to solution. More money for books, computers etc! Perhaps more money to the best teachers, and a new line of work for the poor teachers. But the unions will never allow, and we’ll all be back to square one complaining about the cost per child etc.


Frank Gormlie May 17, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Your line “Unfortunately, individual union members have no choice in how their dues are allocated” is simply erroneous. Union members vote on their leadership. Just like US citizens do, as we don’t have choices where our taxes go – except by electing people that promise to do the will of the people.


The Mustachioed OBecian May 17, 2011 at 12:56 pm

I’m not sure that’s analagous. We pay taxes to fund government, not an individual political party. So why should a republican who is a member of a union be forced to support democratic candidates and causes? If the shoe were on the other foot, how would you feel?


Lorena Gonzalez May 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Dear Mustachioed Obecian – They don’t. Every union member has the ability to opt-out of having their dues used for anything but representation. We call it a “Beck Objection”


The Mustachioed OBecian May 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Hmm. thanks Lorena. I hadn’t been familiar with the Beck Objection.


mr.rick May 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm

If someone pays union dues and then gets to vote on the union reps. How is that any different than paying taxes and the money being used for things you don’t agree politically with. Just work in a non-union field. If a person wants to bitch about something then put something besides your retoric on the line.


diegomom50 May 20, 2011 at 3:14 pm

As a life long democrat, I am not a republican or belong to the tea party movement. I just wanted to say that I don’t want to pay more in income tax, car tax and sales tax to support public employee unions. The drop out rates in California are abysmal. My salary was reduced, I pay into my retirement and for healthcare. If the teachers care so much about the kids and not themselves. They should take a pay cut, pay into their retirement and share the cost of healthcare. If it would save them from layoffs, you would think they would be happy to feel the pain that we in the private sector have been dealing with. If new taxes or tax extensions are put to a vote. I vote NO, NO, NO


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