Rallies against education cuts begin; officials warn against violence
A national day of protests against education funding cuts began Thursday with generally peaceful rallies, walkouts and teach-ins at universities and high schools. But an incident in which demonstrators smashed the windshield of a car trying to enter UC Santa Cruz brought a warning against any other violence.
At Cal State Dominguez Hills in the Carson area, about 50 students gathered in front of the student union with some shouting "Give My Education Back!" and carrying signs that proclaimed: "From Pre-K to Ph.D., Let Me Go to School." They played a mock “Wheel of Fortune” game with stops that included "graduating in four years with a good education" and "getting a 30% fee increase."
One of the organizers, Kevin Orantes, 23, a junior majoring in public administration and communications, said he became involved because he was upset about the effects of budget cuts on access to education and wanted to leave a better legacy for his own children. "Today’s generation is reaping the benefits of sacrifice that generations before had to accomplish, like civil rights and women’s rights," Orantes said. "If we don’t do anything for the next generation, it will all be in vain."
Chris Morales, 22, a junior majoring in business, said it felt good to be part of a large protest effort, with rallies around the state and nation. "I feel like this is a big movement that might make a difference," he said.
There were reports of some trouble in Northern California as demonstrators decried higher student fees, reduced course offerings and faculty layoffs.
At UC Santa Cruz, more than 200 protesters blocked the two main campus entrances and reportedly smashed a car windshield with a metal pipe, officials said. There was no report of injury to the driver and no arrests were made, although police are investigating the matter. All UC Santa Cruz employees were told not to attempt to drive to campus for the rest of the day.
Campus Provost David Kliger denounced the incident. "Behavior that degrades into violence, personal intimidation and disrespect for the rights of others is reprehensible, and does nothing to aid efforts to restore funding to the university," he said in a statement posted on the campus website.
UC’s top administrator also urged a day of nonviolence. "My heart and my support are with everybody and anybody who wants to stand up for public education. I salute those who are making themselves heard today in a peaceful manner on behalf of a great cause," UC system President Mark G. Yudof said in a prepared statement.
At UC Berkeley, about 150 protesters – at times chanting "Money for jobs and education, not for war and incarceration" – blocked the main pedestrian entrance to campus, Sather Gate, and also sought to stop people from walking into the university by hanging "danger" tape across paths.
A large crowd was gathering at UCLA’s Bruin Plaza. Hundreds of students, faculty and staff members chanted, "Who's got the power? We've got the power!" as others walked out of classes for the protest.
Professor Sara Melzer joined her UCLA students in the 11:30 a.m. walkout from their French culture and writing course because she said she wants to stop what she described as the privatization of public higher education. "It's not just about student fee hikes," she said. "That's the tip of the iceberg."
Roselyn Valdez, 28, an anthropology graduate student at Cal State Northridge, participated in the UCLA demonstration and held a white sign that showed a skeleton writing the words "RIP UC." She said it stood for the demise of the public education system that helped her study at Los Angeles City College, UC Santa Barbara and now at Cal State Northridge.
Valdez said she used loans, scholarships and worked various jobs to pay her education costs. "With fee hikes, I can't imagine anyone else having the chance that I did," she said.
The rallies, organized by unions and student groups, are scheduled throughout California, and around the nation in what organizers describe as a "Day of Action." Events are planned in, among other spots, Sacramento, Long Beach and San Diego, as well as in New York City, Boston, Baton Rouge, and Seattle.
Authorities are warning of possible traffic delays Thursday afternoon in Westwood and downtown Los Angeles because of the protests.
The protesters at UCLA have a permit to march off campus about 5:30 p.m. They are expected to march south along Westwood Boulevard and cut through some side streets to Wilshire Boulevard and back to campus along Westwood Boulevard, according to an Los Angeles police advisory.
The permit is for 150 people, but the statement notes that officials "expect more." No formal street closures have been scheduled.
Separately, many busloads of students, faculty and staff from Southern California universities and high schools are scheduled to converge at 4 p.m. at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles and then march about three blocks for a rally an hour later near the Ronald Reagan State Building on Spring Street.
Police say there will be intermittent street closures along Olive Street, Hill Street, Broadway and Spring Street and around 4th and 5th streets, and they urge drivers to seek other routes, particularly Figueroa Street, as a possible better route to freeway entrances.
-- Carla Rivera in Carson, Nicole Santa Cruz in Westwood and Larry Gordon in Los Angeles.
Photo (top): Students from Santee High School and from West Adams Preparatory High School call on other Santee students to join them in protest as they march through downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times. Photo (top): Protesters at Cal State Long Beach. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times. Photo (bottom): UCLA to protesters. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times.
Photos: Education protests
MORE ON THE PROTESTS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
-Photo from Berkeley.
-Photo from UC San Diego.
-Photo from UC Santa Cruz.
-Map of statewide protests.
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