CHICAGO (STMW) — The Rev. Jesse Jackson and a Chicago Teachers Union representative said on Saturday that work will be done to fight back against the recent layoffs of more than 2,100 Chicago Public Schools employees, as well as laws that led ultimately to the acquittal last week of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

Addressing a crowd that included some CTU members, in red T-shirts, CTU organizer Brandon Johnson spoke at the Saturday Morning Forum at Rainbow-PUSH headquarters, 930 E. 50th St.

“The mayor of Chicago … has misled the people by claiming we can close the budget deficit by closing scores of schools,” Johnson said. He said that CPS’s move to let go of 2,113 employees, including 1,036 teachers and 1,077 support staff, “is unconscionable, and it’s dirty. This move by CPS will continue to exacerbate an already stressed system,” he said.

“We will not retreat,” Johnson said. In an effort to get action from elected representatives, he said, “we’re gonna show up to ward nights, we’re gonna organize, get people elected. There is a line in the sand. That line is drawn today. We shall not be moved.”

Jackson said of those laid off by CPS, “These people played by the rules, yet they don’t have a job today. The good news is they’re fighting back.”

Speaking about the Zimmerman acquittal, and the thought that some have expressed that it’s led to a conversation on race, Jackson said, “It’s time for racial justice, not just racial conversation.”

He recalled the civil rights struggles of the past half-century, saying that each time a victory was won, there was “daylight.” When Barack Obama as elected president in 2008, Jackson said, “it was high noon,” but then a backlash came. “In came an onrush of meanness and hostility,” with opponents of the president saying he was not born in the U.S., or that he was a Muslim. They were saying, Jackson said, “he won, but he’s not one of us.”

These are among the same people who, when Obama addressed the racial divide in this country by speaking about the Zimmerman verdict this week, called him “divisive,” Jackson noted. As a contrast, Jackson said, when presidents Carter or Clinton spoke of civil rights, met with members of Martin Luther King’s family or appeared on the Arsenio Hall show, they were said to be “reaching out” to the African-American community.

Likening the death of Trayvon Martin to those of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers, and how their deaths sparked action in the black community, Jackson said, “there’s power in the blood of the innocent.”

While it may seem that the sun is setting on the promise that past civil rights victories and Obama’s election brought, Jackson implored the crowd, “Even when it’s dark, we toil at night. When it’s dark, we work the night shift. My light will shine when they take my job, when they take my schools, when there’s danger all around me, when there’s fear all around me. Light will cast out darkness.”

Also at the meeting, a 21-year-old intern at Rainbow-PUSH related a tale of being profiled by police this past week while walking near Rainbow-PUSH headquarters with another summer intern. He said they were made to put their hands on the hood of the unmarked car and handcuffed as a criminal check was run and subsequently came back negative. The situation, which he said has happened to him in the past, was resolved only when a PUSH employee walking by saw them being detained by police, and got others who were at PUSH to go out to the scene.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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