Occupy takes the Capitol: thousands storm Sacramento to save education

A crowd of thousands gathered at the March in March protest against funding cuts to education on Mar. 5, 2012 in Sacramento. CLARIVEL FONG / THE GUARDSMAN

By Thomas Figg-Hoblyn

The Guardsman

Budget cuts, course cuts, teacher lay-offs, dilapidated facilities and overcrowding — the hemorrhaging has increased year after year. In an all-out effort to get officials to listen and wake up from their stupor, folks from all walks of life stormed the state’s Capitol building on March 5 in what has become known as the “March in March.”

This year a new wrinkle has appeared, as the March in March was co-opted by the Occupy movement. The lines between students and Occupiers blurred during the protest.

The stakes have never been higher.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the California community college system has slashed thousands of classes from their schedules. This fall up to 400,000 students will be denied access.

So far this year, 96 classes were cut mid-semester here at City College, many long after students had already bought their books and begun turning in their homework.

Chancellor Don Griffin publicly acknowledged that the cuts hitting the school were the worst it has ever faced since it’s inception in 1935, in a board meeting discussion concerning the march.

“I’m here to support my wife, who’s a teacher, and my kids,” said rally supporter and San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos, at the beggining of the march on the Thursday, March 1. “I think that we can actually make history this year and win a ballot measure to pay for education.”

In Santa Cruz demonstrations kicked off with a bang as hundreds of students blocked entrances to the University of California.

By Monday March 5, thousands were in attendance on the lawn of the state Capitol, some having marched 99 miles to Sacramento.


Demonstrators chant at the Capitol Building in Sacramento to protest education budget cuts on Mar. 5, 2012. VINCENT PALMIER / THE GUARDSMAN

Those who didn’t march the entire way arrived by bus, train, automobile and foot to demand their right to affordable public education in California.

“It’s important at least to show up and support,” said Julia Somers, 21, who came to the protest from Sonoma.

Protesters called upon Gov. Brown to reject any budget which includes additional budget cuts or tuition increases.

Over 300 protesters entered the Capitol building around 1 p.m., the timing of which was no coincidence.

Convening in the Capitol building that day was a California Community College Board of Governors meeting. The board only weeks before had approved the Student Success Task Force recommendations which students and faculty have claimed publicly are meant to ration education away from the needy.

Dr. Natalie Berg, City College trustee and member of the Board of Governers, said in an interview with The Guardsman, “There are talks of furloughs, and that’s how it was dealt with in the 1990s. This time it’s just a little easier, because we aren’t having massive layoffs.”

At 6 p.m approximately 70 remained in the Capitol building, defying orders from California Highway Patrol officers to disperse.

The mood was tense for about an hour as both officers and demonstrators held their ground, but by 7:30 p.m. the arrests began. Demonstrators continued chanting energetically as their fellow occupiers were arrested one by one.

CHP officers drag demonstrator during arrest inside the Capitol building in Sacramento on Mar. 5, 2012. JAMES FANUCCHI / THE GUARDSMAN

By 8:30 p.m. all detainments were made. Officials were unable or unavailable to confirm the exact number of arrests by the time this issue of The Guardsman went to press, at 4 a.m. on Tuesday.

Estimates by reporters on the ground say there were at least four City College of San Francisco students among those pulled away by officers.

Dr. Natalie Berg said with confidence shortly before Occupiers were detained, “the classes will come back. City College is a stellar institution, and it’s strong. I know City College will survive.”

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