The Tucson Unified School District meets tonight for a regular meeting. Folks behind the Freedom Summer project are organizing another action in support of Mexican-American studies in front of the school administration building starting at 5:30 p.m. and continuing during the meeting.
At last week's special meeting on Monday, July 2, the group kicked off a month-long series of actions that will take place in front of 1010, as well as weekend canvassing targeting specific neighborhoods in Tucson and teach-ins at the John Valenzuela Youth Center in South Tucson. Go to the group's calender to see what events are taking place.
But what will happen tonight? Last week, most of the action that took place was centered on TUSD board member Michael Hicks, who came outside during a board meeting break and taunted students and Mexican-American studies supporters. The taunts were returned with shout-outs for Rosa Clark and more. By Wednesday morning, Hicks claimed he was assaulted, but wouldn't be pressing charges.
This reporter and others outside and in the room when Hicks returned didn't see an assault take place, and Tucson Police Department officers who stood next to Hicks while he was outside never intervened on his behalf — expected if an assault occurred.
Hicks responded last week that we had it all wrong and that he was assaulted, although he never replied back when we asked for more details on what kind of assault took place and why he chose not to press charges. But we did hear back from Sgt. Maria Hawke, TPD public information officer.
The consistent TPD presence at the school board meetings hasn't been well received, especially after the school board meeting on May 3, 2011 in which community members were greeted by police in riot gear and some arrested. At the special meeting on Monday, July 2, there was a smaller police presence, but we asked Hawke if there's an existing policy to protect board members who leave the building to taunt students, since that's what it looked like that evening.
Hawke clarified today that there is no policy but officers check in to see if additional officers are needed at school board meeting — depending on what's on the agenda or how many people are there. But the police there that night, who stood by Hicks during his break, did not escort him out or stand there specifically to protect Hicks, Hawke said. Although when you look at this particular photo of what happened that night, it's hard to understand that wasn't the case.
"The main purpose is to ensure people's safety," Hawke said, it wasn't to escort Hicks.
Activists close to the police barricades in front of the building entrance said they heard police complaining about Hicks when the board member returned inside. Hawke said police can't keep Hicks from going outside and taunting students, and they can't prevent students from taunting him — that would be in violation of free speech.
You can watch a livestream of tonight's meeting here.