Cheri Honkala is led into a paddy wagon after being arrested for trespassing during a school funding protest at Gov. Tom Corbett's office. Credit: Sam Newhouse
A group of teachers, parents and children from Moffet Elementary staged a sit-in on the bottom floor of Gov. Tom Corbett's office in Center City Thursday after their attempts to perform a citizen's arrest on Corbett were denied.
Organizer Cheri Honkala, whose son attends Moffet, led the protest in response to the recent cancellation of teachers' contracts. She was arrested around 6 p.m. for trespassing after refusing to leave the lobby of 200 S. Broad St. and trying to pass a line of police officers to get to Corbett's office.
The group of more than 40 protesters entered the building just after 4 p.m. trying to take the elevators to Corbett's offices.
But the building turned off its elevators, leading the group to take the stairs. When a stairway door was locked, they instead staged a sit-in in the lobby, chanting for "safe schools" and "fair funding."
"Why shouldn't we get what everyone else in the city gets?" asked Trish Delaney, a 1st-grade teacher at Moffet, who said the school has one staffer supervising 90 children for lunch, two staffers supervising recess, and scant supplies.
ESL teacher Elizabeth Gomez said that beyond the SRC's Monday announcement, teachers fear contract negotiations will lead to further pay stagnation and cuts to schools.
"It's not just about benefits," Gomez said. "We have sacrificed."
After chanting in the building's lobby for two hours, police asked the protesters to leave.
Honkala refused to leave without confirmation that the citizen's arrest would be brought to the governor. When police said they could not do that, she tried to push through a line of officers blocking the lobby, at which point she was arrested.