Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
National Day of Action to Defend Education
The March 4 National Day of Action against cuts in education was an extraordinary day of resistance, something that has not been seen on campuses in decades. At UC Davis, northeast of San Francisco, 300 students attempted to shut down an interstate on-ramp and were met with 200 law enforcement forces…UC Santa Cruz students blocked entrances to the campus and shut down the whole school… 15 students at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee were arrested in a protest at the chancellor's building. In over 100 actions in more than 30 states, thousands of students—along with teachers, staff, parents, workers, and others—marched, rallied, took over buildings, and blocked streets.
In California, the epicenter of the attacks on education, students from elementary, middle, and high schools, community colleges, and universities joined the day of action throughout the state. The massive turnout was driven by the slashing of public education at all levels: classes slashed… teachers, assistants and staff pink-slipped… class sizes increased… school libraries cut back or shut down… music and art classes eliminated… and tuition fees skyrocketed as much as 32 percent in the UC system. The energy was high and the atmosphere electric as protesters made clear that these massive cuts in education were simply unacceptable. Also an important part of this day was outrage against the noose that was hung recently at UC San Diego, and other racist outrages (See "UC San Diego: 'Don't UC Racism?'" in this issue.)
A widespread demand on March 4 was, "Education is a right, not a privilege." Many students are fighting for a world where higher education would be available to everyone. This is in stark opposition to those forces in this country who openly advocate that only those who can afford to pay $25,000 a year or more should go to the top schools. If you can't afford it, "It's your fault. Too bad."
The following are from reports by Revolution correspondents in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.
San Francisco Bay Area
Protests took place throughout the Bay Area. Hundreds of students walked out from several high schools in Oakland. In some places, administrators and principals organized whole schools to attend rallies, or teachers took elementary school kids to the protests as a field trip.
At UC Berkeley, several hundred students blocked Sather Gate, where thousands pass each day on the way to classes. A march of 2-3,000 students headed for Oakland, five miles away. As the march passed Willard, a Berkeley middle school, the younger students shouted out, "Willard School Is Hella Tight, Education Is Our Right!"
The UC students linked up in downtown Oakland with many hundreds of students from a broad array of schools. The Oakland Education Association, the teachers' union, was out in force. About 150 youths set off on a march to the UC President's office, and then took over the freeway, blocking traffic for over an hour. Police arrested everyone involved, and one protester was seriously injured.
Across the Bay, 10-15,000 people rallied at the San Francisco Civic Center. About 300 SF City College students joined a large march from the Mission District to the Civic Center. The entire student body of 700 from the Mission campus of City College came, organized by teachers, the administration, and student activists. Hundreds came from Mission High; 10 buses came from De Anza College south of San Francisco.
The protests at California State University Northridge engulfed the whole campus and basically shut it down. Professors cancelled classes, and students went through the campus calling people out of the classes. At the height of the protests, several thousand students gathered at the library. Hundreds marched and took over an intersection and a strip mall. Cops broke the arm of a 73-year-old woman protester, and then arrested people who came to her aid.
At UCLA, over 1,000 students marched and rallied for the whole day—the highlight was a four-hour occupation of Murphy Hall, the administration building. One speaker at a rally was an Iranian woman, who was in L.A. for International Women's Day. In her speech in Farsi (translated for the students), she said she was bringing the students' voices to Iran and the voices of people in Iran to the students. A first-year student told us, "I really care about the future. I am really a part of this new generation. This is the world I'm living in, and I want to make this a better place."
In other actions around the region:
- A multinational grouping of students held a spirited march and rally at UC Santa Barbara. Students at Cal State University Dominguez Hills demonstrated on the campus.
- Several thousand teachers and students gathered at Pershing Square in downtown L.A. and marched to the state office building. High school students from Manual Arts and Miguel Contreras marched from their schools to join. There were 200 from Santa Monica City College and 300 from Cal Poly Pomona.
- At Long Beach Wilson High School, 2,000 students, teachers and parents met at the school gym to protest the impending layoffs of 700 school district employees, mostly teachers. There were student walkouts at several L.A. high schools.
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