Showdown at Whittier Elementary and La Casita in Pilsen

This is an experiment in reporting, using a tool that permits a reporter to link to social media sites, Flickr images, and real time

La Casita fieldhouse. Photo by sierraromeo sarahji from

web updates to create context for stories. In this case, the confrontation between parents and activists and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and police at the fieldhouse near Whittier Elementary school that erupted about 1:15 p.m. on June 23.

Start with this:

  • Who: Pilsen parents & community members, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago police, demolition team.
  • What: CPS calls meeting about Whittier School library issue downtown. Sends demolition crew to “La Casita” fieldhouse (site of 40+day sit-in.) Community finds out & rushes to La Casita.
  • When: June 23 about 1 p.m.
  • Where: 1900 W 23rd St Phone: (773) 535-4590.
  • Why: Chicago politics? Read for yourself.
The call that something is going on goes out via Twitter on June 23, around 1 p.m.
BREAKING: Whittier supporters regalvanize sit-in to defend La Casita; police on scene, arrests appear imminent –
June 23, 2011
The mainstream media were not getting involved, so out went a call to citizen media.
Citizen journalists and photographers – the story is happening at #Whittier Elementary 1900 W 23rd St. #Chicago.
June 23, 2011
Citizen media sources including Gapersblock, Indymedia, Chicagoist, and RadioArte got busy with supplying context and background, videos, interviews, and news from the scene.
CPS Renews the Battle Over Whittier Elementary’s Fieldhouse – Gapers Block Mechanics | Chicago

Pilsen community members and parents of students at Whittier Elementary School are outraged as Chicago Public School officials have chosen not to honor a deal that would have saved the school’s fieldhouse, aka “la Casita.”
RT @MartinMaciasJr: #Whittier: @CPSbacktoschool (ChicagoPublicSchools) Won”t Renovate Fieldhouse, Board Turns Back on #Parent Committee
June 22, 2011
Whittier Elementary Afternoon Update: Chicagoist

With the reports coming in from Whittier Elementary, I took another trip over to the Pilsen school this afternoon. The police presence lacking last night was out in full force this afternoon, but they maintained a respectful distance to allow the Whittier Parents Committee to have their protest and comment to the media about their wishes to sit down with CPS officials to discuss their plans for the fieldhouse.
Citizen photojournalist’s contribution:

A taste of the action from La Casita via Twitter. You can see a search stream at!/search/whittier%20elementary

June 23, 2011
@_GXM Yep. Now it’s high noon at #Whittier & apparently it was #CPS who called police to arrest fed up parents et al.
June 23, 2011
Crossing my fingers that colleague @WillGuzzardi isn’t getting thrown into a paddywagon as I type this message. #whittier
June 23, 2011

Some things you need to know about this story if you haven’t been following the action over the past year in Pilsen at the fieldhouse called La Casita and the Whittier School.

“Viva La Casita!” Whittier Parents Revive Occupation of Fieldhouse After CPS Attempts Feint — The ITT List

Parents from Whittier Elementary hold a press conference outside of the school’s contested fieldhouse on June 22, 2011 “Viva La Casita!” This was the message broadcast loud and clear from the fieldhouse turned community center and library outside of Whittier Elementary in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood on Wednesday.

The community was fighting to renovate this part of the fieldhouse as a library for the nearby Whittier School in Pilsen. The community met and even staged a sit-in in the fieldhouse in 2010. According to parent activists, they had an agreement with former CPS chief Ron Huberman.


There are questions about how Mr. Brizzard, the new Chicago Public Schools (CPS) leader and new mayor Emmanuel figure into this new development.

UPDATE: Call Alderman Solis NOW @ 773.523.4100 to make sure the TIF money allocated for Whittier is used for the renovation of La Casita as he committed to. Solis stated the following during a meeting at La Casita on October 21, 2010 “the money from this district”s [Pilsen Corridor] Tax Increment Financing that would have been used to demolish the community center will be used to renovate it.”
Kati Gilson
June 22, 2011

The next day, things changed.

The Struggle to realize @AFHChciago’s design for La Casita continues; CPS Renews the Battle Over Whittier’s Fieldhouse:
June 22, 2011
The parents have formed a community center and don’t want the library to go into the school building. A mother, Araceli Gonzalez, explains the meetings with former CPS head Huberman, and why they don’t want the library to be moved into the school.

The community was told to “get organized” and as they kept a sit-in going for more than 40 days in 2010, they seem to have become organized, and want a community center that is a library and more.
Solidarity with the Whittier Parents sit-in – stop the demolition of the field house!! – Signatures

Signatures on the Solidarity with the Whittier Parents sit-in – stop the demolition of the field house!! Petition to Alderman Daniel Solis; Chicago Public Schools.
#Whittier solidarity to plan action tomorrow @ La casita 6pm. We avoided arrest today, but this fight is far from over.
June 23, 2011
But this is Chicago, isn’t it. Ben Joravsky
writing in the Chicago Reader in November of 2010, discussed the request by a Catholic school hoped to replace the field house with a soccer pitch and earmarks. Read this for deep backgrounding.



Whittier: What Fanned the Flames | Politics | Chicago Reader

By now you’ve probably heard a thing or two about the showdown between Pilsen residents and Chicago Public School officials over the field house on the playground at Whittier elementary school. For 43 days parents and neighbors occupied the ramshackle, 84-year-old one-story building they fondly call la casita to keep CPS from demolishing it.

powered by Storify

Print Friendly
Posted by on June 24, 2011. Filed under Community, Editor's Choice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.