Students march to state capitol protesting cuts


Protesters began their sit-in Monday afternoon and for a while, officers sat back and watched, until closing time.

Officers ordered protesters to disperse as soon as the capitol closed at 6 p.m. They repeated the order three times in the span of an hour and a half, but the dozens who converged in the building's rotunda, decided they weren't going anywhere.

"The money power is circulating here. It's circulating in the Financial District of San Francisco and New York City and Wall Street, so all we got is what we got right here, so we're going to stay here and utilize that," said Isaac Kreisman, a student protester.

Many of these protesters were students, who came to Sacramento to make a point. The day began with a morning march, and continued with several rallies throughout the day.

The thousands of students, teachers and administrators came from all over California demanding an end to tuition hikes and that programs that have been cut over the years, be restored.

"We want it to be accessible and we want it to be available for people because we feel that it's extremely important that it's not something that is only for a select few," said Robin Liepman, a student protester.

Finally, after giving protesters every opportunity to leave, officers made their move, and arrested each person, one by one for trespassing. The CHP, which has jurisdiction over the capitol grounds, were well prepared. They called in 150 extra officers. The fact that no one put up a fight, was not a huge surprise.

"We kind of got word of that early on, that that's how it was going to go, that they just wanted to show what their point was and eventually we'll be able to do our part," said CHP Capt. Andy Menard.

Organizers of Monday's events hoped for 10,000 people, but the actual turnout fell short.

Students have been protesting the continued cuts to education, which have led to multiple tuition hikes. They've seen tuition hikes skyrocket every year, sometimes every semester, yet they get fewer classes, prolonging graduation dates and adding to their student loan debt.

Multiple groups participated in the education protests, which began Friday, including many students from California's public universities and community colleges. Two groups, Refund California and Occupy Education, were inside the Capitol Building starting at 1 p.m. Monday, hoping to disrupt business. One arrest was made outside for possession of a switchblade.

Many demonstrators said they didn't come all this way only to be told to leave. "It could mean arrest. Those people are willing to risk arrest," said Jennifer Tucker, a UC Berkeley graduate student.

"I believe in a California in which higher education is inclusive and excellent and it's not going to happen on the track that we're on right now. It requires collective political action and I'm willing to take that risk," said Tucker.

The state budget has been battered by the recession, forcing leaders to cut funding to higher education for years. Democrats say since they've had no Republican support for raising taxes, slashing was the only option to balance the budget.

"I have participated in making billions of dollars of cuts to higher education and I've hated every minute of it," said St. Sen. President Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

Using their majority vote powers, Democrats vow to back Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative to make textbooks cheaper and to pass the Middle Class Scholarship plan, which gives a two-thirds tuition break to certain students. Republicans say higher taxes are unnecessary because there's enough money to fund education.

"We're also funding high speed rail at a time when that should not be a priority. We should be focusing on education," said Assm. Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa.

Brown said in a statement Monday that the protests only illustrate the need for California voters to approve his tax increase on high-wage earners and the sales tax.

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