Protesters hold 'day of action' at college campuses

March 1, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Rallies, marches, and teach-ins took place at college campuses around California Thursday, a day of action timed to coincide with budget negotiations in Sacramento.

Santa Cruz

Tensions ran high during a protest on the UC Santa Cruz campus. A scuffle took place after a man yanked the bandana from a protester's face and that was just one of several confrontations that took place Thursday morning. The university was effectively shut down with most classes cancelled. The vast majority of the activity Thursday was peaceful and very positive with a couple of notable exceptions.

The demonstration at UC Santa Cruz got out of hand, when a frustrated student trying to get to class was punched by one of the protesters. And, a driver knocked over a couple of demonstrators blocking the main campus entrance. Abigail Edwards said she heard an engine rev and a Mustang hit her when the driver charged forward. "I smelled like a little smoke coming from the hood and next thing I knew, I was on top of hood and then on the ground," she recalled.

Witnesses say the driver intentionally tried to ram the line of demonstrators. "He was vocalizing, saying that we weren't allowed to block the entrance off and it was his right, and he felt entitled to come onto campus, and he wasn't going to give up," Kylie Sanders said.

Police say they are investigating the incident and will not speculate if any charges will be filed. "We're attempting to interview our witnesses and gather as much fact as we can. If there's any video out there, we'd like to see it," UCSC Police Chief Nader Oweis said.

Not everyone was as understanding. One man walked up and grabbed the bandana off the face of one of the students. Someone quickly jumped in to protect him as he continued to taunt the crowd. A human barricade was designed to keep cars off campus and disrupt business as usual. "The entire idea of a strike is that all business at the university shuts down. It's kind of a manifestation of the inconveniences that we as students are suffering every day," Ben Mabie said.

Even some students sympathetic to the message did not appreciate the protest methods. "I think this is unfair for students not to be able to get on campus to get access to their labs to do their assignments, right?" said student Gregory Jackson.

Through the rain and mostly peaceful event, what will be remembered are the emotions that went too far. "He could have really, really hurt a lot of people so, it's mindless and foolish," Edwards said about the man who drove into her.

Protesters at UCSC expected to wrap up their activities around 7 p.m. Campus police said if and when that happened, they would reopen the roads. A university spokesperson said they expected classes and all activities to return to normal on Friday.

San Francisco

In San Francisco, as usual, all roads led to Civic Center Plaza. After a number of protests at SFSU and SFCC, teachers, students, members of the Occupy movement, and members of several unions decided to meet in front of City Hall.

Before arriving at City Hall, around 100 people were allowed inside the state building where they protested against any more cuts against education. It was the fourth such protest there. Some local legislators have offices there and the idea was to reach out to them. Gov. Jerry Brown has an office there as well and protesters called on him to reject any budget deal that includes tuition increases or cuts to education, K through 12 and higher education.

They are supporting a ballot measure that would raise taxes on millionaires. They say that money would pay for education and social services. They also want the government and banks to forgive student loans. "We've already had students drop out because they couldn't afford it and it's absolutely true," said City College teacher Wendy Kaufmyn. "The promise that California made in the 60s, that every student could go to college, is being totally undermined."

The rally at the San Francisco City Center was mostly peaceful, but there were several arrests. When the building closed for the night, about a dozen people were arrested for trespassing after they occupied to lobby all afternoon and past closing time. The group was ordered to leave, but they decide to stay until their demands were met, demands like fully funding education and social services. Protesters were arrested, cited, and released.

"We were talking about strategies and how we can get money for education," said teacher Cathy Bellin.

"I had planned on being arrested, so I moved my car to 850 Bryant Street, where it now sits. It's a little disappointing," said Craig Rouskey from Occupy SF. "This is the second time I've been arrested with Occupy, it's pretty fun."

"We need to make sure we train the next generation to have the best education possible, to have the best skills, so they can go out there and have a better future," said Ramneek Simi from the San Francisco Labor Council, at an earlier rally.

"I owe $27,000 to San Francisco State University where I was a student at first. I'm in default on that debt, collection agencies are calling my work, where I already make poverty level wages and they're threatening to garnish my wages, take money out of my paycheck," said Alex Schmaus, a City College of San Francisco student.

Schmaus says money is such a struggle for him, he's now trying to finish school without buying books.

Many of the protesters said they were heading to Sacramento to join in a statewide protest on Monday.

Berkeley

Just across the bay, students gathered at UC Berkeley to also raise awareness of school funding. A crowd gathered at Sproul Plaza to hear speakers from Occupy Oakland, teachers and even students from Stanford.

They want an end to attacks on public education and want more accountability from the regents on where their money is going. "We're here to raise awareness about this issue, show that we care about these issues, that there are a large majority of people who want these things to change and that we need to be listened to," said Stanford student Zoe Lindstrom.

A small group of protesters walked down Telegraph Avenue to Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland. Some of them planned to begin what they called "The 99-Mile March" Thursday evening, all the way to the capitol in Sacramento.

ABC7's Karina Rusk, Heather Ishimaru, Lyanne Melendez and Ama Daetz contributed to this story.


Load Comments