Interview with Reverend John Powis

The rally at City Hall that led to the march across the Brooklyn Bridge into 110 Livingston Street, can you talk us through that. What was the rally about at City Hall and why the march across the bridge?


During the strike there was a number of rallies run by the union, by the UFT in front of, in front of City Hall. And there was a lot of teachers of course and a lot of people who took part in them. And so we felt that somewhere along the line, we should have a march or we should have a demonstration in front of City Hall. So we met in front of City Hall, ah, again never thinking that these many people from all over the city would, would convene with us. But there were literally thousands and thousands of people, all in front of City Hall. And it was about 4:30 or 5:00 in the afternoon and all of a sudden, almost spontaneously, we decided that we were going to simply march across the Brooklyn Bridge. And, I, I'll just never forget it because we started marching and right in front of us was maybe 50 police, all the helmets and the sticks, the usual. But there was a Human Rights Commissioner in the city at that time, a fellow named William Booth and he walked up to the police and he said a few things and they argued a little bit with him and they argued back and all of a sudden we were allowed to go right up the main road of the bridge. And thousands and thousands of people walked and above us were all these helicopters from the different news services taping us live because by that time I guess it was 5:30, 6:00. We marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and our, our destination was really going to be the Board of Education. That was going to be the next place that we, but we never even stopped. So many people were there and so many people were marching and shouting and slogans and people had their arms joined. It was, it was a different kind of march. The, the union demonstrations were very union orientated and had very professional looking signs and all this other kind of stuff. We just had people, regular, ordinary, community people. And instead of stopping at the Board of Ed., we started right down Fulton Street, right straight through Fulton Street, miles, a long walk from, from, from, ah, the bottom of the Brooklyn Bridge to Ocean Hill-Brownsville. And we marched right through Bed-Stuy and, ah, people on every corner were cheering, shouting. People in their windows, ah, ah, shaking bells and all kinds of things. It was, it was, it was a real party night. And we came to 271 we had a beautiful demonstration there. And just a, a, and actually went into the auditorium and we had like an assembly.