Pickets From The Past...


Recently, Dr. Trotter was in Columbus and bumped into a Marshall Middle School teacher and MACE member.  She was elated to tell Dr. Trotter that Mr. Blackwell was transferred after the MACE's picket this past Fall.  Coincidence?  Promotion?  Who cares?! The teachers at Marshall are apparently happy!


      Above is a picket against DeKalb's King High School principal Skip Nelloms.  MACE picketed Mr. Nelloms on several occasions, including the first day of school two years in a row.  In this photo, we have MACE stalwart Dennis Yarbrough with King teacher at the time, James (Gunny) Yawn, who came out to the picket line.  Subsequent to the MACE pickets, Mr. Nelloms was appointed as an assistant principal at Avondale High School and later at Towers High School where MACE picketed him again.

MACE Street.
Teacher Advocacy

        To say that the MACE pickets are popular would be a tremendous understatement!  The MACE staff and friends cannot oblige all the requests for pickets and, because of the MACE staff's busy schedule, must turn down many more than it can honor.  Although pickets are a time-honored expression of free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution, they are fairly unusual in today's society, and they therefore cause quite a stir among each school's community when they are staged. 

        Why does MACE picket?  MACE pickets when it feels that the teaching conditions arre so egregious at the school that the quickest and most effective method -- after other attempts at resolution have failed -- to bring about improvement is the dramatic exposure of the conditions at the school.  After past MACE pickets (some covered by television, radio, and newspapers), some administrators have been transferred, one principal shortly retired, some have panicked and/or cried, and many have "gotten religion" -- if only for a short while.  The pickets are effective and hugely popular among members; however, MACE will not be prostituted over pickets!  MACE will not accept any remuneration whatsoever for a picket.  And, the MACE staff members are not bellhops who will jumpt at any "demand" for a picket.  MACE will entertain requests and will listen to the rationale for the picket, but will not be coerced to picket.

It is always fun for the MACE cavalry to picket!  Teachers enjoy observing their administrators when they are not in control.  Some paranoid school systems nearly always send out the cops to drive MACE away.  The cops can do nothing to MACE because the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly established that parks and sidewalks are category one free speech forums.  In Grayned v. Rockford (1972), Justice Thurgood Marshall, in the majority opinion, wrote that "(w)ithout interferring with normal school activities, daytime picketing and handbilling on public grounds near a school can effectively publicize those grievances."  In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down floating buffer zones around people entering and leaving abortion clinics.  The Court wrote:  "Leafletting and commenting on matters of public concern are classic forms of speech that lie at the heart of the First Amendment, and speech in public areas is at its most protected on public sidewalks, a prototypical example of a traditional public forum" (Schenck et al. v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York et al., 1997). 

The Picket Offensive for the Winter! (POW!)


   At MACE, we do not like to see teachers languish, trying to teach in conditions which are not conducive to both teaching and learning.  We believe that you cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions.  These two are inextricably linked.  You cannot have the former (good learning conditions) until you first establish the latter (good teaching conditions).  We believe that top-down, heavy-handed management is counte-rproductive to the schooling process.  Often times, administrators act as if they have never heard of Abraham Maslow, Kurt Lewin, Carl Rogers, et al.  Their management style is simply ineffective, out-dated (years ago), and, quite frankly, often abusive toward not only teachers, but toward fellow human beings.


   When MACE feels, in its collective opinion, that conditions exist at certain schools or in certain school systems (often, it is systemic to a school district) that impedes the learning processes at that school or school system, then MACE feels compelled to shed light on the conditions at a certain locations.  MACE also feels compelled to warn its members to shy away from these locations.  Furthermore, if a school system or a local administrator fails to process a grievance filed by a teacher within the parameters of the State grievance law (O.C.G.A. 20-2-989.5 et seq.), then MACE feels that it has no choice but to picket concerning this matter.  At MACE, we give the school systems an offer that we feel they cannot refuse:  Either process and conduct a grievance which is generally held is rather private conditions or earn a very public picket.  We think that this is only fair.


   In the Fall, MACE picketed, for various reasons, at the Central Office of the Atlanta Public Schools (mainly for the lackadaisical manner in which APS responded to the alleged attack of both a student and her mother on a teacher); at the Central Office of the Gwinnett Public School System (for the arrogance and heavy-handed management of Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks); at Dunbar Elementary School (APS); at Therrell High School (APS); at Babb Middle School (Clayton County); at Therrell High School (APS); at Randolph Elementary School (Fulton County); at Bryant Elementary School (Cobb County); and at Douglass High School (APS).  Beginning The Picket Offensive for the Winter (POW), MACE launched a picket at McNair Middle School (Fulton County).  Next came a picket at Grove Park Elementary School (APS).


   Yesterday saw the MACE Picket Squad in Downtown Griffin, Georgia in front of the Central Office for the Griffin-Spalding School System.  There’s probably never been that much excitement in Downtown Griffin since Wyomia Tyus (of Griffin) won several gold medals in track at the 1964 Olympics in Track & Field.  Police were swarming the place.  Central Office administrators were furious.  The newspaper came as well as the radio station.  Why the big excite?  The administrators were offended at the MACE signs, especially Dr. Trotter’s which read:  “Jesse [JesseBradley, the Superintendent]: Candy Ass?  Afraid of the Grievance Law?”  As usual, with his tattered Constitution in hand, quoting Constitutional Law to the Police Officers along with a camera and a video recorders in pickers hands, the Police backed down (even after having called for a Paddy Wagon).  Dr. Trotter observed:  “It’s funny how the Police Officers get quiet as church mice when the media arrives.  Usually, they run like roaches when the light comes on.”  Operation Angst continued today in front of the DeKalb Central Office where the administration tried again to get lax about promptly processing grievances.  It was another very juicy picket with Crawford Lewis drawing the sting of the MACE Picket Squad.  This picket also caused much anguish and angst.  Dr. Trotter stated:  “We live in a great country where people can lawfully engage in peaceful but confrontational protests against governmental bodies.  The bright line standard for this is the Bill of Rights.  Georgia would not even ratify the U. S. Constitution until the Bill of Rights was included.  Darn good country we live in!  The Court is vigorous about protecting these basic rights, despite the fact that local school officials and police officers apparently disdain these rights.  May they would be better off moving to Russia.”                              


   On the White Board at the MACE Office, there are about fifteen (15) to twenty (20) school names for future pickets during the Winter.  The Winter months seem to be the time for many pickets.  Perhaps it is the “winter of discontent.”  Hold on, teachers!  MACE is coming!  Pickets are generally very effective.  Every now and then, a principal or superintendent “learns dumber” (as we call it around the MACE Office).  Then, MACE has to crank it up…and pour it on!  Besides the hundreds of weekly calls, hearings, interventions, letters and rebuttals written for teachers, and grievances filed for teachers and the subsequent representations for teachers in these hearings, perhaps the most popular service for MACE’s members are the pickets.  Sometimes in the steaming and scorching sun, sometimes in the blistering wintry winds, and sometimes even in the rain, the MACE Picket Squad marches on.  The teachers are happy.  They feel vindicated.  They feel that their voices have finally been heard.  POW!  Here comes The Picket Offensive for the Winter!  It’s now steamrolling ahead!    February 25, 2009.


MACE Picket Causes Angst in Griffin...MACE Stands Firm!

Police trying to get Dr. T. off picket line.

Police called for paddy wagon.


A sight never scene in Griffin?
More police vehicles showed up.

"Superintendent Bradley Must Go!"

Picket attracting attention.

Superintendent Jessie Bradley in hard hat.

Newspaper and radio come to picket.

MACE Pickets!




Atlanta Public!

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  "Save Teachers.  Reduce Administrators."
MACE Storms The Capitol!


  By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD

Editor's Note:  Photos and video of the Capitol picket will be up shortly, as well as photos of the Atlanta picket (Beverly Hall), Lake Ridge Elementary in Clayton County (Brenda Cloud), and Towers High School in DeKalb County (Skip Nelloms).


   Yesterday morning, I got my day starting by writing a fairly lengthy letter for a teacher in a DeKalb elementary school.  Then, we descended downtown to the Capitol to picket between the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building (LOB).  Our signs were colorful and they were definitely catching the attention of the legislators who were coming into the Capitol at 2:00 PM.  (An education committee meeting had just adjourned at the LOB.)  The signs, off the top of my head, were such as:  "Teachers Teach.  Administrators Cheat"; "Save Teachers.  Reduce Administrators";  "Chop Administrative Bloat!  Furlough Administrators"; "Next Election:  Teachers With Pitchforks" and others.  The Capitol and State Police force were all agitated and calling in re-enforcements, claiming that we could not picket at this location at the Capitol but had to picket at a "designated area" (on Washington Street).  Well, if you know me, you know that this precipitated a big confrontation and a pow-wow between the police and me.  I take umbrage at the fact that law enforcement officers just do not respect a Category One Free Speech Forum.  After I went in detail about the U. S. Supreme Court's dissertations on the First Amendment (time, manner, and place regulation which must be accompanied by a compelling State interest which also must guarantee "the least restrictive alternative," which in this case would be directly across the street in front of the Legislative Office Building and the Judicial Building; the fact also that any regulation has to be "content neutral") and after much fulminations were impregnating the air, we decided to move the picket to the Washington Street-Trinity Street corner of the Capitol, much to the relief of the Officers.  This too was a good location to picket.  I must give a "shout-out" to Captain Les Robinson.  He was called in to deal with the MACE Picketers.  He handled himself most professionally.  He told me that he really didn't want to have to arrest me.  I told him that I had earlier in my career spent some time in the "Garnett Hotel" around the corner from the Capitol and that my biggest complaint about going to jail is that it is so excruciatingly boring in jail, and I feel like I am an expert in this area, having matriculated through a few jails in my professional career.  I have never been convicted.  Charges have always been dropped (except on one occasion when they were "dead docketed").  I must say that I am proud of all of the times that I have been arrested...always for speaking out on what I believe to be right -- speech protected, mind you, by the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution as well as protected the same by our Georgia Constitution.

   For the record, the State has a "Code 50" that apparently (note that I say "apparently") gives the State Police the right to regulate demonstrations in front of State buildings.  I demonstrably (yes, this will soon be on MACE LIVE TV via www.theteachersadvocate.com, You Tube, and many other distributors) told the Police that the State's Code 50 did not meet muster with the U. S. Supreme Court's rulings on Category One Free Speech Forums.  For example, the Washington, D. C. City Council passed a local ordinance forbidding citizens from picketing in front of the United States Supreme Court building.  But, in U. S. v. Grace, the U. S. Supreme Court struck down this ordinance as unconstitutional, saying that citizens could indeed picket the Court.

   One thing that we are not so good at MACE...getting the media to cover our events.  We generally operate like a triage center, and the pace is so fast-paced that we don't have time to send out press releases about a gathering or demonstration.  I hear that PAGE, GAE, and even GFT are planning different demonstrations at the Capitol.  Good.  I am glad.  The more demonstrations, the merrier.  At MACE, we generally do not ask our  teacher-members to take a day off to show up at the Capitol to picket.  We, as MACE Staff, usually do the picketing for our members.  In 2000, this was an exception to the rule when Governor Roy Barnes was in the process of dismantling due process rights for teachers in Georgia.  Then, we did call upon our members to take a Personal Leave Day.  We showed up at the Capitol in mass and had three straight days of pickets against "Redneck Roy," as I dubbed him and was roundly criticized in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for doing so.  We had some most colorful signs back then, such as:  "Roy Flunked Character Education!"  I would like to be able to attend the demonstration on Saturday, but my parents have been married for 65 years, and we planned a big celebration for them in Columbus on Saturday evening.  As many teachers who can get out, please attend any and all of the demonstrations against the efforts to balance the State budget on the backs of teachers as well as against the asinine notion that the so-called "All Star Teachers" program will do anything but further perpetuate and facilitate the culture of cheating in Georgia.  (c) MACE, February 19, 2010.







 Supt. Susan Andrews, Do Something about Marshall Middle! 
MACE Picket Force Strikes Columbus Again! 





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