Hundreds of local protesters marched through campus, Isla Vista and downtown Santa Barbara yesterday, joining thousands of Californians in a statewide “day of action” supporting public higher education.
Shouting “You say cutback, we say fight back!”, over 250 UCSB students, faculty and staff gathered in the Arbor from 12 to 2 p.m. to rally against the current state of public education. Protesters then marched across campus and into I.V. before biking or bussing to Santa Barbara to continue rallying on State Street.
Many ralliers cited UC leadership as a main reason for the University’s woes.
“That clown, the UC president, is aloof to what is happening in his universities,” a UCSB graduate student who identified himself as Youseff called out in the Arbor.
Professor of Asian American Studies Diane Fujino said that with the UC Board of Regents’ approval of a 32 percent fee increase in November, many students are no longer able to afford the price of a UC education.
“We need to stand up for education as a human right,” Fujino said. “As a right that all people have access to a quality education that allows them to think, learn critical thinking, the skills to be creative and imaginative and to be socially responsible and civically engaged.”
Megan White, a second-year feminist studies major, denounced Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislature for spending more on state prisons than on education.
“We demand that California educate its leaders of the future rather than incarcerate them,” White said.
After the speeches ended, protesters moved the rally out of the Arbor into I.V. before heading downtown. Some demonstrators, however, remained on campus and entered classes in progress in Campbell, Buchanan and North Halls.
Sarah Payne, a third-year psychology and comparative literature double major, said protesters stormed through her class in North Hall after the rally ended.
“About 15 minutes before class got out, we could hear them outside saying ‘hey hey, ho ho, budget cuts have got to go,'” Payne said. “Then a couple of them came into the entrance and they were asking us to walk out with them, and some guy was like ‘Fuck the system, fuck the budget cuts. ‘”
According to Vice Chancellor for Students Affairs Michael Young, protesters overstepped their bounds by disrupting those who did not wish to participate.
“Petitioning [people like] the chancellor or me is appropriate, but the way this rally was conducted disrupted at least two classrooms,” Young said. “That is simply out of bounds.”
However, Danielle Stevens, a first-year philosophy major, said the disruptions were minor and a part of the protesters’ overarching objective.
“Our goal is to let the legislators and state know we’re not fucking around,” Stevens said.
On the whole, UCSB police Sgt. Matt Bowman said the day’s events were peaceful.
“As far as I know, no police action was necessary [at UCSB],” Bowman said. “I’m very pleased that the local community was respectful as opposed to those at [University of California] Santa Cruz and Davis, for example.”
UC Santa Cruz saw one of the most active events, with numerous protesters seen carrying clubs and knives. An individual smashing a car windshield with a metal pipe was also reported. Protesters formed human barricades at the campus’ entrances, prompting the university to tell employees not to come to work for safety concerns.
In Berkeley, over 1,500 protesters marched on Oakland City Hall and the nearby UC Office of the President headquarters following a rally at Cal.
At Davis, close to 100 protesters who had collected at the 980-880 freeway interchange were detained and transported away by bus after breaking off highway crash barriers and attempting to force police officers away.
At the height of protests at UCLA, an estimated 500 ralliers gathered in Bruin Plaza chanting slogans. In later hours, police guarded the chancellor’s office in case of a possible takeover by activists.
SBTA member Layne Wheeler said the event was an opportunity to be heard by legislators.
“Today is a show of solidarity and a show of force,” Wheeler said. “Politicians are hearing the message that these cuts are hurting students.”
Hannah-Beth Jackson, a former California State Assembly member, said she hoped that the event would lead to important legislative changes in the economic priorities of the state.
“It’s a great lesson in learning that you have to speak up for yourself, especially when big corporate interests are taking over,” Jackson said. “The solution is to make sure that the corporations start paying their fair share of taxes so [students] get their fair chance [to have an education].”
On the Courthouse steps, Santa Barbara City Councilmember Das Williams, currently a candidate for the 35th District State Assembly seat, advocated for equal access to education.
“Our educational system has not only created unparalleled equality and opportunity but also economic prosperity and jobs,” Williams said. “If we fail to invest in public education, we are endangering not only that equality but also the economic future of our state.”
When involved in the struggle, when of the first things necessary is to clearly identity your adversary. Yesterday at the Arbor I heard many denunciations of poverty, militarism, bailouts, and education cutbacks, but no mention of Barack Obama, perhaps the most right-wing of recent presidents. In a naked display of support for US-style structural adjustment, Obama has fully endorsed the firing of all teachers at Central High School in the poverty-plagued town of the same name in Rhode Island. Obama declares that these teachers, working under some of the most trying conditions imaginable (for a good overview of Central Falls,… Read more »