The announcement on this morning's United Teachers Los Angeles Web site had sounded low-keyed enough: Bowing to a court decision barring the teachers union from staging a one-day strike today, UTLA members would confine their activities to rallying before and after classes. Had the strike proceeded, teachers would have been liable for $1,000 fines and possible dismissal.
Members were also encouraged to wear black, to mark their displeasure with L.A. Unified School District's plans to sit on federal stimulus money and use it down the road, while proceeding with thousands of teacher and schoo-employee layoffs this summer.
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The Web announcement made passing mention of some unspecified acts of civil disobediance to occur at 10 a.m., but this passage wasn't accompanied by any rhetorical drum rolls. What a surprise, then, when close to 50 union members, including UTLA president A.J. Duffy and other union officers, were arrested for sitting down in the road and blocking the entrance to the LAUSD offices at Beaudry and Fourth streets.
When describing his union's action, Duffy sounded as though he might be teaching a civics class:
"We're practicing democracy, civil disobedience," Duffy said prior to his arrest. "Picketing before work hours and after work hours. That's what the United States was built on."
According to the L.A. Times, schools throughout the city were disrupted by thousands of teachers calling in sick (the Times estimates 700 teachers more than on average were missing) and by student walkouts.