As of midday Friday, there have been no reports of Mayor Rahm Emanuel considering the use of remote-controlled robotic policing devices to clear the streets of the striking Chicago teachers.
But just in case Rahm gets any funny ideas, he should know that those teachers have at least one mechanized strike supporter in their corner.
I encountered Strikebot on Thursday’s picket line at Lane Tech High School, scurrying around teachers’ feet near the curb on Western Ave. as an endless stream of supportive honks filled the air. Lindsay Smit and Ben Durham, physics and robotics teachers at the school, had created the robot—using no CPS money or supplies, they emphasized several times—“to walk the picket line with us.”
Smit was operating Strikebot with what looked like a Playstation controller. A sign reading “Strikebot Loves Teachers” was waving from left to right; a small gray plastic piece with two circular orange pieces that looked like eyes moved front to back like a head nodding “yes” to the question “Are Chicago teachers total badasses?” A few drops of rain started coming down, so Smit opened up Strikebot’s blue and green-plaid umbrella.
As I was examining a small crossed-out picture of Rahm Emanuel’s head, Smit pushed a button; the lever holding the picture popped out and Rahm’s head began spinning in circles–a fair robotic representation of what can only be assumed to be Emanuel’s reaction to the sea of red-clad teachers blanketing the streets of every neighborhood every day this week.
Strikebot seemed pretty chill, his function mostly relegated to morale-boosting on the picket line. But if Rahm decides to turn the teachers/CPS contract fight into open robotic street battles, my money’s on Strikebot. I mean, since last year, nobody thought the CTU would or could strike, but here we are, day five. I’m sure if you push them far enough, the teachers’ robots can be just as fierce as the educators themselves.