Thousands Descend on Sacramento to Protest Education Cuts and Tuition Hikes

March-on-Capitol

While Dozens Were Arrested for Trespassing, No Violence is Reported

While thousands of protesters and demonstrators gathered around the Capitol on Monday, a small group stayed inside of the building and achieved their goal of getting arrested.  About 68 arrests occurred when the protesters refused to exit the building at the close of business hours.

But spokespeople for law enforcement called the day a success, as there was no violence, no tear gas, no batons.

The police credited their large show of force, with police lining the building in riot gear and riding on police horses.

Protesters would point out their statement of non-violence, that the organizing groups Occupy Education and ReFund California adopted: “The Occupy the Capitol action will be a mass nonviolent action. Those involved in its organization will not engage in acts of property damage either inside or outside the capitol and do not condone such acts. Decisions about tactics will be made democratically.”

The mass media made this about the show of force and the arrests – which were intentionally achieved by the protesters, who stayed in the building a full hour and a half past closing, and ignored numerous warnings.

“We gave them more time than needed,” said CHP Capt. Andy Menard to the media later, adding, “We asked them to leave several times. We gave them every opportunity.”

The day was about the message, though some in the media apparently did not understand the message.

Charlie Eaton, representing ReFund California, said yesterday morning at a press briefing, “Today is a really exciting next step after the events of this fall.”  The group made headlines last fall when they sponsored a week of protests, arguing that it was time for the one percent to pay to re-fund public education.

“It’s no secret for about the last ten years in California,” he added, “it’s students and workers who have paid.”  He cited 300% tuition hikes and massive cuts that have cost jobs for workers.

While the workers and students have suffered, Mr. Eaton argued, “At the same time, corporations have not been paying – the one percent has not been paying for education.  They’ve had tax cuts.”

Van Jones, President and Co-Founder of Rebuild the Dream, “I am here for one reason, I am very proud of this young generation and very ashamed of my own.”

He said his generation is throwing the current generation under the bus.

“We are pulling the ladder up behind us and we have got to start putting the ladder back down for these young people,” he said.  “We have young who are graduating every spring off a cliff into no jobs in the worst economy since the Great Depression with unbelievable amounts of student debt.  It’s not fair to them.”

“I am so proud that these young people have begun to try to change the conversation and bring us back to what made California great,” Mr. Jones added.  “California is great because we invested heavily in education and infrastructure.  All the things that have made this state such an easy place to do well and to get wealthy.”

Students speaking at the event were frustrated with the cuts, the tuition hikes and the lack of leadership from the legislature.

“They say cut back, we say fight back!” the protesters chanted, waving a variety of signs and saying “fund education, not war” and “cuts in education never heal.”

While Assembly Speaker John Perez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg voiced support for the students’ cause, the student protesters chanted “show us” and “you’ll hear us out or we’ll vote you out.”

“You have the right to be mad,” Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg told the crowd. “Too many people are getting big tax breaks while the cost of higher education for you is going up.”

“We’ve cut billions of dollars and I’ve hated every minute of it,” he added.

Speaker Perez said, “California made a promise, that every single person who worked hard in high school would have the opportunity to go to and make the most of their potential at a UC, CSU or Community College.”

“That promise is not being kept when community colleges across California have drastic cutbacks, layoffs and fee hikes that force students out of the system,” he said.  “And that promise is not being kept when student fees have risen more than 100 percent at the UC and CSU.”

He noted that the cost of education has doubled the debt for students and the bills for parents.

He added, “I am one of the hundreds of thousands of Californians who is deeply grateful that the Cal Grant ensured I could go to school.  But for thousands of students across California, the debt is too much to take on, and the bill is too high to pay. And so they chose not to go to school at all.”

“That should never happen in California,” he said.

And while the words may have been powerful, many of the students and protesters saw it as lipservice.

Senator Leland Yee, a fierce critic of the university systems and strong supporter of students and workers, issued a statement on Monday morning.

“I commend the students, faculty, and workers who are making their voices heard today at the State Capitol. I am proud to support them and that is why I have always voted against cuts to public education, fought executive compensation hikes and taken on the corporate greed and arrogance of the UC and CSU administrations,” he said.

He added, “Through SB 967 we can stop the exorbitant executive pay hikes, unfair tuition increases and severe budget cuts, and through SB 1515 we can give students, faculty, and workers a real voice on the Board of Trustees.”

“Together, we will restore much-needed funding and accountability to our public education systems,” the Senator said.

Governor Brown issued a statement, “The students today are reflecting the frustrations of millions of Californians who have seen their public schools and universities eroded year after year. That’s why it’s imperative that we get more tax revenue this November.”

But in many ways, he was at odds with the protesters.  He is supporting his own tax policy, but the protesters are supporting the millionaire’s tax, which they argue would raise roughly $6 billion for education and other programs.

“It is time for wealthy people in California who have been drinking from the well to start replenishing that well.  You can’t just take take, take from California and not give back,” Van Jones said.  He argued that the millionaire’s tax would put six billion dollars back into education.

As Charlie Eaton said, “We’re asking the governor to drop the talks with our universities about a 24 percent tuition hike over four years and to instead support the millionaire’s tax and support a broader budget to make the one percent pay to refund jobs, education, workers, social services.”

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Facebook that he was joining thousands of students in Sacramento to rally in support of investments in high education.  He said: “We’re sending a strong message: Enough is enough.”

Later he posted, “It’s time for California to wake up and start investing in Higher Education. Enough is enough.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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7 thoughts on “Thousands Descend on Sacramento to Protest Education Cuts and Tuition Hikes”

  1. E Roberts Musser

    While the students are demonizing the 1%, they are missing the boat on union outrages! See following link: [url]http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/28/buffalo-new-york-teachers-get-free-plastic-surgery_n_1306896.html[/url]

    Though this outrage is in NY, I’m sure there are plenty in CA…

  2. Mr Obvious

    [quote]The day was about the message, though some in the media apparently did not understand the message.[/quote]

    Where you going to tell us what the message was?

  3. medwoman

    Elaine

    So, nothing like taking one egregious abuse and using it as an illustration of how students are not seeing big picture of union abuses. Since you have chosen an example in the medical field, and since you are using anecdote to make a powerful statement, let’s now consider the case of a young woman of whom I have personal knowledge. She has the condition anorexia nervosa, which, left untreated has a one in five mortality rate. The severity of her disease precluded her from continuing her job. With loss of her job came loss of her insurance and thus loss of the highly intensive, highly specialized, and highly expensive care her condition demands. Guess she is just out of luck right, since in the wealthiest nation in the world, with by far the most technologically advanced medical care for those who can afford it, we choose not to extend appropriate care to this young woman. These situations are part of what is troublesome to the 99% that the 1 % do not face, and for the most part, either are unaware, or simply do not care about since it does not apply to them.

  4. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Since you have chosen an example in the medical field, and since you are using anecdote to make a powerful statement, let’s now consider the case of a young woman of whom I have personal knowledge. She has the condition anorexia nervosa, which, left untreated has a one in five mortality rate. The severity of her disease precluded her from continuing her job. With loss of her job came loss of her insurance and thus loss of the highly intensive, highly specialized, and highly expensive care her condition demands. Guess she is just out of luck right, since in the wealthiest nation in the world, with by far the most technologically advanced medical care for those who can afford it, we choose not to extend appropriate care to this young woman. These situations are part of what is troublesome to the 99% that the 1 % do not face, and for the most part, either are unaware, or simply do not care about since it does not apply to them.[/quote]

    I’m not following you here. The NY schools system is paying for cosmetic surgery for its teachers, something taxpayers should not have to pay for. I’m sure there are union abuses like this everywhere. So while we are addressing the “abuses” of the 1% to make obscene amounts of money (which I have complained of many times depending on the circumstances), don’t you think it seems reasonable to look at union abuses as well? All cards should be on the table for consideration in this abysmal economy…

  5. medwoman

    Elaine

    Yes, I think it is reasonable to consider all aspects of a problem. But, I do not think that every aspect of a problem has to be brought up every time an issue is discussed or protested. Your assertion was that the protestors were “overlooking something”. We have no idea whether or not these protesters are aware of this union demand, whether they would or would not approve of it. But what your assertion does is to serve as a red herring to draw attention away from the legitimate claim ( in my opinion) that the extremely skewed distribution of wealth in our society has a number of adverse consequences for those in the bottom tiers financially. The student protestors are naturally focusing on the detrimental effects on their biliary to get an education. Because of what I do for a living, it is easiest for me to focus on the medical inequities imposed by our extreme division of wealth.

    “I am sure there are union abuses like this everywhere”
    This statement would have a lot more credibility if you had chosen at least one example from California. To pick up on one instance, and then just assert your opinion that it is common does not build a stronger case.
    And when I say this, I am fully aware that this applies equally to my anecdotal story. So, I would like to share an experience I recently had with an eating disorders support group. The background again is that 1 in 5 people with the diagnosis of anorexia will die from the complications of this disease if inadequately treated. At this meeting four of the women present are obviously desperately ill and are unable to obtain the long term, intensive care that is required for this chronic, relapsing illness, because they are either uninsured or underinsured. For some of these women, the lack of ability to pay for treatment is quite literally a death sentence. For me, the consequences of our extreme inequities in our distribution of wealth be it in the realm of medical care, education, housing, incarceration rates due to the inability to obtain adequate representation is the point. I agree that there are abuses. I just believe that the union abuses are a drop in the bucket compared to the damage caused by the extreme disparity in wealth in our society.

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