NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A rally was held Wednesday to protest cuts to J.H.S. 292 Margaret S. Douglas school’s after-school marching band program in East New York.

Protest organizers said the space the Soul Tigers Marching Band uses for practice nearly every day has been a source for conflict over the years due to demand from a UFT-run charter school that uses classrooms in the school.

Soul Tigers band director Kenyatta Hughes told 1010 WINS the after-school program is important to keep kids off the street.

“We have real problems in East New York. We see the kids on the streets being shot and stabbed,” Hughes said. “A lot of the time the band goes to the funerals of these kids because they know these kids. And the band is a way out.”

Hughes said the marching band has offered so many opportunities for the students.

“We take them on trips, we go on college tours, we have one coming up in February to Clark Atlanta, down at Morehouse,” he said.

Protest organizers allege the school’s new interim acting principal, Evelyn Maxfield, is trying to dismantle the marching band, even going as far as changing the locks on the doors to the band room and disallowing use of the school on Mondays and Tuesdays.

As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, Andrew Duhaney started with the Soul Tigers as a middle schooler and nine years later he’s still working with the program.

“Anytime you’re in some type of trouble, there’s always someone in the band that you can go and talk to,” he said.

“All the hours we spend together and then she’s just going to throw it away,” said seventh-grader Devin Mercado.

The she Mercado is referring to being principal Maxfield, Silverman reported.

“I am a very angry parent,” said Tyisha Graham, who has raised three Soul Tigers. “My kids have been places that I would never be able to take them if it wasn’t for Soul Tigers.”

In a statement to WCBS 880, a Department of Education spokesperson said:

“The Soul Tigers Music and Arts program serves hundreds of students and is a proud hallmark of the J.H.S 292 school community in Brooklyn. We are working closely with the program’s Director Kenyatte Hughes to accommodate the Soul Tigers Music and Arts program, as part of our commitment to provide J.H.S 292 students and the children in the local community with enrichment opportunities and meaningful afterschool programs that showcase student talent and hard work.”

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