DOWNTOWN — A day after teachers accused people at the Board of Trade building of spitting on them during a march, workers at the building are denying those claims.
Nine teachers have told Block Club they or someone near them was spit on from above Wednesday while marching outside the Board of Trade building at 141 W. Jackson Blvd. The teachers were marching as part of their strike, which started last week.
The allegations quickly spread on social media, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted on Thursday, “Stop the nonsense. … No one should be assaulted for expressing their voice.” And the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which used to own the iconic building, said in a statement it was “appalled by the allegations.”
But people who said they work at the building say they don’t believe the teachers’ claims. They said the building’s windows don’t open — which is common among Downtown buildings — and the wind would have carried away spit from the building’s heights. Block Club was not able to independently confirm whether the windows do or do not open, though the windows did open in years past.
Others have suggested there were window washers at work that day and their water might have fallen on the teachers rather than spit. Block Club was not able to confirm whether there were window washers on site, either.
Multiple teachers have disputed that, saying they didn’t see window washers and it was undeniably spit that hit them because the liquid was white, warm and bubbly.
The Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group said on Friday it was “appalled by the allegations that an individual at the Board of Trade building spit on” protesting teachers.
“We want to assure all CTU members and the Chicago community that we do not in any way condone this behavior,” a CME representative said in a statement. “We have spoken to the new building owners and understand that precautions are being taken to prevent this type of activity from occurring again.”
A representative of GlenStar Asset Management, which manages the building, said the reports were inaccurate and declined to comment further.
A man who works in the Board of Trade building gave Block Club a notice he said building management emailed to tenants Thursday. In the notice, the management informed tenants that teachers reported being spit on and having anti-strike fliers dropped on them while outside the Board of Trade.
“Our Security Officers were on the Plaza at the time of the incident and saw the flyers fall but do not believe they came from our building, otherwise we would have responded and taken action immediately,” the notice says. “We are letting you know because there have been postings on social media mentioning our building and the Chicago Board of Trade that seem to be gaining attention, and we wanted you to know in advance.”
On Thursday, teachers said the spitting had been disgusting, disheartening and shocking.
Jendy Barnes, a special education teacher at Peterson Elementary School in North Park, was among the marching teachers Wednesday morning when she felt something hit the side of her face near the Board of Trade building. She looked up and saw more things coming down — what appeared to be “little droplets, almost white in color.”
Barnes wasn’t sure what the liquid was and didn’t think much of it; it wasn’t until later, when she was home and reading Facebook posts from other teachers about being spit on near the Board of Trade, that she became certain she, too, had been hit from someone in the building above.
It’s “almost unfathomable” and “completely shocking” adults working in the Board of Trade Building would spit on teachers, Barnes said.
“I’ve been spit on before; I’m a special ed teacher,” said Barnes, who works with 5-year-olds in kindergarten. “Usually I’m spit on because I work with children who don’t know how to cope and that’s their mechanism of getting back at me. I wouldn’t expect it from a grown adult in such a calculated manner.”
Andy Currie, who teaches at Mather High School, saw a similar incident when he was marching near the Board of Trade Building that morning. He was walking when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw liquid come down and then saw Northside College Prep teachers get hit by a large amount of spit.
There was so much spit Currie thinks it’s possible the harassers worked together or even spit into a cup and then dumped it on the teachers.
“I thought maybe a seagull had pooped or something like that, but it became quite apparent that it was spit,” Currie said. “And with that amount I don’t know if it was a coordinated effort … .”
The teachers who got hit were visibly upset and everyone was shocked, Currie said. Some looked up at the building and shouted, but they couldn’t see who had spit at them.
“It was a pretty classless act overall,” Currie said. “People were just generally very upset.”
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