Thousands march to call on legislators for change


Angry students drown out the speeches of politicians at the state Capitol as thousands showed up in Sacramento to protest on Monday, Mar. 5. Students from all over the state, from San Diego to Humbolt, banded together for a show of force in hopes of getting politicians to support them. (Mike Alfieri/The Inquirer)

Thousands of students from across California gathered in Sacramento on Monday, Mar. 5 to demand the protection of higher education for all during the “Fund our Future” march and rally, which resulted in 72 arrests.

The cost of “education is simply growing at an unsustainable rate,” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “We have got to fix it, we can’t just talk about it.”

Approximately four to five thousand students arrived by the busloads to Sacramento Monday morning. They gathered at Southside Park, many holding signs with their demands and dressed in their school colors and logos.

“Enough is enough!” UC Berkeley student Cindy Fung said. “It is time for our legislature to stand with us.”

A loud and peaceful march was made to the capitol, where the students voiced their concerns peacefully.

“Education is our right!” a speaker from City College of San Francisco said. “Now is the time to make sure that this right is not taken away from us!”

Several speakers addressed the energetic crowd once they reached the capitol steps. Along with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom , other speakers included Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Speaker of the Assembly John A. Pérez and representatives from many of the attending colleges.

At the commencement of the rally on the capitol steps, Gregory Washington, President of the California State Student Association, encouraged the audience to send a twitter message to Gov. Brown asking for his support.

“We’re gonna send a message to Governor Jerry Brown.” Washington said. “Why don’t you support our future? Why don’t you support higher education?”

Though Brown did not make an appearance at the event, speakers who did attend encouraged the students’ presence.

“California is watching you and the people of our state agree with you; we need to fund higher education,” Pérez said.

“You have a right to be mad,” Steinberg said. “Too many people are getting big tax breaks when the cost of higher education for you is going way up.”

The students were keen to the political rhetoric that they have heard before and chanted “Show us! Show us!” when speakers showed empathy.

Steinberg gave students clear examples of how he and others were trying to meet their demands. He spoke to his proposed legislation, SB 1052 and 1053, regarding affordable textbooks. “It should not cost twelve hundred dollars to buy a set of textbooks for the year.”

The Millionaire’s Tax was another point that Steinberg raised. “You have the chance in November to pass a revenue measure to put more money in to higher education.” Steinberg said.

Many of the protesters were holding signs in support of the Millionaire’s Tax throughout the event.

“If we make the millionaires pay their fair share of taxes, we can take care of schools, communities, make things a little more pleasant,” Beverly Roberts, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment member said.

Pérez also gave examples of what action he was taking to support higher education.

“I propose the middle class scholarship.  We’re gonna close a corporate loophole that only benefits out of state corporations,” Pérez said. “We’re gonna use that money to reduce fees at UCs and CSUs by two thirds…Then we’re gonna take $150 million and sent it to community colleges.”

“We need to get back into investing in our people…that…starts with higher education,” Newsom said.

Once the speakers were through, the crowd dispersed, ending the “Fund our future” events. Around 12 p.m. students started back to their buses to be chartered off.

A couple hundred protesters stayed behind for the “Occupy the Capitol” event. Protesters allowed entrance into the Capitol after going through security. California Highway Patrol was posted throughout the building and around the Rotunda, where about one hundred protesters occupied.

The protesters held a general assembly that went on for about four hours until the public hours for the Capitol ended. Protesters started on creating a list of demands to vote upon introducing to legislators, such as opposing the student success act, dropping all charges on Occupy protesters and banishing nuclear research.

California Highway Patrol officer Sean Kennedy reported that of the 72 people who were arrested, 66 of them were cited for violating penal code 602 for trespassing and released shortly afterward.

Six people were booked in Sacramento County Jail; three resisted arrest, two violated government code 14685 for hanging a banner from the second story of the Rotunda and one individual was caught with a switchblade outside of the Capitol.

The March in March is a student organized and executed protest where California students voice their concerns regarding their desire to keep all education available to those who want it.  Students have kept up this March since 2009 , where they originally protested in support of solely community colleges.

“We built this envy of higher education for the world fifteen plus years ago, that master plan…and its time to read our own history.” Newsom said Monday. “Its time to recommit ourselves to that foundation and formula for success that’s the conveyer belt for talent – higher education.”