School employees and their supporters hold rally to protest against the silencing and powerful arrest of a teacher Deyshia Hargrave on a Vermilion Parish School Board meeting, Jan. 11, 2018.
(Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser via the Associated Press)
About 100 people mobilized Thursday in Abbeville, La., in support of an elementary school teacher who was forcibly handcuffed and removed from a school board meeting Monday night after the examination of a superintendent’s salary increase.
Waving signs precursor of the free speech and the chanting of “Stand-by Deyshia,” supporters gathered in the rain on behalf of Deyshia Hargrave, of which the removal of the meeting was captured in a video that drew national attention.
Abbeville is located about 150 miles west of New Orleans.
The video shows Hargrave confront Vermilion School Superintendent Jerome Puyau about an approximately $30,000 increase in salary he received from the school board in a 5-3 vote.
But Anthony Fontana is the Vermilion Parish school board president, then declared that her comment was not “relevant” to the vote on the contract, and smote with his hammer in an attempt to silence her. According to the school a member of the board Kibbie Pillette, Fontana, then motioned off-camera to the officer who interrupted Hargrave, when she spoke, and dropped her off.
“I’m going,” she said, making her way. The officer followed her into the corridor, where moments later, a camera recorded her on the floor with her hands behind her back, handcuffs, and complain that the officer had pushed her down.
Superintendent receives death threats over Louisiana teacher arrest for criticizing his proposal to increase: https://t.co/bMi4Bn8VQ4 pic.twitter.com/Z6ntmpEBdO
— FOX6 News (@fox6now) January 11, 2018
Fontana has not returned calls for an interview with the AP, but defended his actions and those of the officer.
After being released from prison and returns to school Tuesday, Hargrave said that she is trying to make the ordeal into a learning experience.
“Please don’t let the conversation end with me,” Hargrave said. “Go to your local school board meetings. Speak out, be vocal.”
Asked by the AP on Thursday, which is directly to blame for the incident, Hargrave said: “Anthony Fontana.”
Puyau, who said he began receiving death threats as the video spread on the internet, it would not respond and that left the teacher’s removal, but said that he is not happy with how things played out.
“It was not good in any way,” he said. “We are a good community. It took everyone by surprise. I am having a hard time with this, but we care about our teachers and our employees.”
Earlier, Hargrave told the AP that she believes that Fontana should resign. They refused to propose any discipline for Reggie Handles, the deputy city marshal who handcuffed her on the hallway floor after they leave the meeting, and pulled her out of the building.
Hargrave declined, at first, to say with certainty whether they will file a lawsuit in the case.
“We’ll see how it goes,” she said when asked again. “But obviously, I have the feeling that my First Amendment rights were violated, and I feel like, yes, there will be a lawsuit filed.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.