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Chicago unions recruit 'Professor Occupy' to help hone protest skills (Updated)

Chicago unions recruit 'Professor Occupy' to help hone protest skills (Updated)

The city of Chicago is thinking about shutting down as many as 129 public schools experiencing "under-enrollment." Predictably, teachers unions are gearing up for a fight to keep the failing schools open and operating and, according to the Washington Post, they are bringing in some experienced heavy hitters for help:

The Chicago Teachers Union is co-sponsoring “Citywide Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Trainings” to teach parents, teachers and others protest techniques, including disruptions, occupations and arrests, according to a union press release. The trainings, the release said, are going to be led by political activist and scholar Lisa Fithian, who for decades has been a student, labor and community organizer on a range of issues. Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey will participate in one of the training sessions, which is also being sponsored by the Grassroots Education Movement, a group of community-based organizations from across the city.

Ms. Fithian's resume is long and laden with "work" as a liberal activist, including stints organizing the Justice for Janitors campaigns in Washington DC, Denver and Los Angeles and to nursing home workers in San Francisco and Detroit.  Who knew there were so many job opportunities out there for professional agitators?

Update: Reader Woodyee asks me in the comments about the source of funding for Fithian's work.  I figured it was worth pointing out this profile Mother Jones compiled on Fithian during her time "consulting" with the Occupy Wall Street movement in NYC:

(Emphasis mine)

IN HER MAKESHIFT classroom in lower Manhattan, Lisa Fithian turns to a group of several dozen students, squares her shoulders, and issues a challenge: "Does someone want to be a cop and come get me?" A tall redhead abruptly breaks out and lunges at her, but Fithian, a petite, den-motherish 50-year-old, head fakes and bolts away. Cheers erupt from her pupils, Occupy Wall Street protesters intent on shutting down the New York Stock Exchange the following morning. Another pretend cop moves in, and this time she drops to the ground, flopping like a rag doll as the officer struggles to drag her away. Fithian stands to deliver her lesson. "Of the two choices, running away or going limp, what does running away communicate?" she asks.

"Guilt," several people say.

She smiles and nods. "Guilt."

When it comes to civil disobedience, there's often a right and wrong way to break the law, and one of Fithian's jobs is to teach the right way to hundreds of newly minted Occupy activists. Call her Professor Occupy. With somewhere between 80 and 100 arrests under her belt (she's lost count) over nearly four decades of rabble-rousing, Fithian may be the nation's best-known protest consultant. Unions and activist groups pay her $300 a day to run demonstrations and teach their members tactics for taking over the streets. But for much of the past six months Fithian has been dispensing free wisdom to the young radicals who took over parks from New York City to Los Angeles last fall, everything from proper tear gas attire to long-term protest strategies. "When there is some conflict, or things aren't going the way that we want them to go, or people don't have a good long-term plan," says 27-year-old Jason Ahmadi, an early arrival at Zuccotti Park, "I have heard others and myself say, 'Dammit, where is Lisa Fithian?'"

Key quote from her interview with Mother Jones: "When people ask me, 'What do you do?' I say, 'I create crisis,'" Fithian says. "Because crisis is the leading edge where change is possible."

EAG News has also reported about Fithian's "career":

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