A crowd of over 800 students, faculty, staff and San Diego locals packed Library Walk on Thursday to protest student fee hikes and faculty furloughs, in a nationwide event named the March 4 Day of Action.
According to a map on www.studentactivism.net that charted all demonstrations across the U.S., there were about 44 protests in California alone — including regional rallies in Los Angeles and Sacramento, walkouts at high schools and community colleges and a demonstration at each UC campus.
The UCSD turnout was about 800, tying with UC Berkeley and outnumbering the other eight UC campuses, which reported turnouts of 300 to 500 people. A.S. Campuswide Senator and rally organizer Bryant Pena attributed this to the recent activism against racism on campus.
“The racial incidents helped mobilize our community and the rest of campus in response of what happened,” Pena said. “When I was on stage in front of Geisel, I couldn’t see where the amount of people ended on Library Walk.”
The demonstration was coordinated by the UCSD Coalition for Educational Justice and the Student Affirmative Action Committee.
The morning started with a Black Student Union rally at the Chancellor’s Complex, followed by a Faculty Press Conference in the Cross-Cultural Center. At 11:30 a.m., students and teachers walked out of their classrooms to gather at Gilman Parking Structure, where they marched to a rally in front of Geisel Library.
At about 1:30 p.m., buses began shuttling protesters to Balboa Park, where UCSD protestors joined a group of 2,000 more for the All San Diego Rally and marched to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s San Diego office.
Though no one was arrested at UCSD’s protest, about 150 protesters at Berkeley’s event — including 37 students — were arrested after blocking off the Interstate Highway 880, according to student-run newspaper the Daily Cal. Berkeley students also joined a crowd of 10,000 in San Francisco — the largest demonstration in the state.
At UC Santa Cruz, protestors blocked all traffic from entering and exiting the campus from 6 a.m. into the afternoon. UCSC officials released a “safety warning” that shut down the campus until 4:45 p.m.
Ralliers at UC Davis also tried to block the freeway, but met a blockade of 120 police officers that prevented them from making their way onto the Interstate 80. The protest dispersed after police fired pepper spray into a crowd of about 300 people and arrested one student, according to student-run newspaper the Aggie.
California wasn’t the only state up in arms; over 100 demonstrations were held across the nation. According to the student-run University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Post, 16 protestors at UWM were arrested when police turned them away from an administrative building and students became violent, throwing punches and chunks of ice.
At UCSD, in an effort to educate students during the weeks leading up to the Day of Action, a campaign called “Let This Be Public Now” — organized by graduate students in the visual-arts department — provided informational flyers offering support to the BSU, the Coalition for Educational Justice and other systemwide initiatives. The flyers covered the effects of the California funding cuts on the UC system.
The campaign culminated on March 4, where supporters like visual-arts graduate student Artie Vierkant wove through the crowd, taping flyers to streetlamps and walls, handing pamphlets to people walking by.
The UCSD rally in front of Geisel was emceed by Chevelle Newell — a member of the BSU — and Pena. Performances included a spoken-word and dance piece by the Art Collective, along with speeches from students, staff and professors.
“Today is about everyone coming out, showing support for change and that we’re actually going to go forth with action,” Art Collective performer and Revelle College freshman Shunya Wade said. “We’re not just talking anymore about being upset with things, but actually coming with solutions to table and saying ‘This is what we want to happen,’ and we will continue to fight for it until it does happen.”
Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Jake Blanc, a representative from the UCSD Coalition for Educational Justice, listed the coalition’s five demands — including access to public higher education, respect for university workers, transparency in drafting university budgets and a change to the composition of the UC Board of Regents. He said the board should be renamed the “People’s Board of Representatives of the University of California” and replace its governor-appointed members with three undergraduates, two graduate students and five faculty members.
Lincoln High School freshman Vanessa Bandith joined 80 of her classmates to march alongside UCSD students at the campus protest.
“I’m here to fight for my education in the future, to be able to go to college without any worries,” Bandith said.
UCSD groundskeeper Jorge Olvera and carpenter David Roger also marched to protect higher education.
“We are supporting our brothers and sisters in different community colleges,” Olvera said. “Our fight is the same fight. Our university system has a great impact on the state. It’s critical that the community that we are part of understands how critical it is for us to take it to the streets.”
At 5:12 p.m., the downtown-San Diego crowd sat in the street parallel to the front entrance to the governor’s office. Speakers — including Revelle College senior Sam Jung and Marshall College freshman Grant White — addressed the crowd, as police cars blocked off the streets.
“As one of the organizers, I was incredibly happy,” Pena said. “It’s definitely one of the biggest things we’ve seen on this campus. Most of the organizers are in the Student Affirmative Action Committee, and to see the rest of campus and folks from the university community involved was amazing.”
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