The crowd is screaming, four police are on hand, and the mood is volatile at the Seattle school-district headquarters in SoDo. Hundreds of people are chanting from the lobby into the open doors of the school-board chambers—“School board, just face it. These closures are racist.”—where the meeting continues. Board members’ discussion is almost inaudible over the screams calling for board members to resign after they just voted five-to-two to close five school buildings and reassign eight programs.

Citing an estimated $24-million budget shortfall, board members voted to close buildings and programs overwhelmingly located in the Central District and the south end of the city, which are attended disproportionately by minorities and students from lower-income families.

Buildings closing are: TT Minor, Old Hay, Mann, Van Asselt, and the Genessee Hill building. Programs that will terminate include Meany Middle School, Summit K-12, and—most contentiously—the African American Academy.

Lathanya Jack, 30, stood with her two children, both students at the African American Academy on Beacon Hill. She doesn’t know where they will go to school now. “The school district has put a stigma on us that makes it look like our children are not succeeding,” she says.

Fifteen minutes before the meeting started, the chambers had already overflowed its 250-person capacity. As superintendent Maria Gooodloe-Johnson made her introductory remarks, another hundred people stood in the lobby, hurling retorts at large-screen television. Inside, police and school security would remove outspoken audience members from the room. But then security removed James Bible, president of the local NAACP.

“I was [standing] in the back just listening,” says Bible. When security approached him and asked him to sit down, he says, “I explained that I had a really bad back and other people needed those seats.” Then, security summoned police officers who escorted him out of the room, he told the crowd.

Pegi McEvoy, a representative of the Seattle school district, says Bible was removed because, “We asked him to have a seat and he refused repeatedly.” Security wanted people to sit down to make sure the room wasn't over fire-code capacity. When she realized he had a sore back, she offered him to return to his seat—an offer Bible refused.

“It seems this school district is doesn’t want to hear from from people of color,” Bible told a crowd who surrounded him in the lobby. The closures, he boomed, "give privilege to kids in the north end at the expense of kids in the south end.”

Inside the chambers, as the board considered amendments, members of the crowd spat derisions. “Why don’t you vote to close the building you have here?” said one woman with a baby. The board repeatedly threatened to stop the meeting.

School board director Mary Bass was the populist star of the show. She had introduced an amendment to retain several of the schools in the Central District; however, her amendment lost two to five. “I do feel, with respect to my colleagues,” Bass said to the board, “that we could have found a solution." Only Bass and the other African American board member, Harium Martin-Morris, voted against the closures.

Jesse Hagopian, a teacher at Madison Middle School and a co-founder of Educators, Students and Parents for a Better Vision of the Seattle Schools, says “Our next step is to file a lawsuit.” Closing these central Seattle schools "is rooted in racial discrimination,” he says.