UCLA, UC Irvine Demonstrations Marked by Focus on Immigrants, Undocumented Students

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LOS ANGELES-Immigration issues figured prominently in student protests staged at UCLA and UC Irvine Thursday.

A walkout on the UCLA campus was sparsely attended, but a rally that began at noon drew about 400 students and union members to Bruin Plaza near the main entrance to the campus. Though the demonstration addressed current budget challenges on campus, the majority of speakers at the rally referenced racially-charged incidents at UC San Diego and acts of vandalism at UC Davis as major causes for concern and catalysts to greater action.

"In L.A., the public schools are 75 percent Latino and 10 percent black," said Adam Lerman, a organizer for affirmative action group By Any Means Necessary, at the protest. "We are in the middle of one of the most diverse cities in the country, and the campus needs to reflect that. L.A. is powder keg waiting to explode."

Speakers said UC policies during the economic recession have limited the campus's diversity. Amid chants of "Si, se puede," activists called for greater acceptance of immigrant and undocumented students at the campus.

Afterward, the crowd broke up into smaller groups that continued to make their own way through campus, beating drums, dancing and chanting slogans.

According to UCLA spokesperson Phil Hampton, 200 students and union members then made their way to Murphy Hall, an administrative building which houses Chancellor Gene Block's office. The demonstrators congregated in the hallway outside his office, urging him to accept demands, which Hampton said included changes to admissions procedures and a rolling back of student fee increases, worker furloughs and lay-offs.

The crowd in Murphy Hall thinned to about 70 supporters by about 2:15 p.m., many of whom united around stories of immigration and struggle, student-written poetry and impromptu musical performances in Spanish.

When the crowd grew restless, organizers urged the demonstrators to "show their solidarity" and wait for "reinforcements."

According to Hampton, 30 to 40 protesters were still in the building after its closure at 6:00 p.m. Thirty minutes later, UCPD officers issued a formal warning to leave the building under threat of arrest. The final group of 20 students left the building following additional police warnings.

Protest efforts at UC Irvine were more cohesive. According to senior Shawnee Moges, 800 students, union workers and two faculty members attended a noon rally where demonstrators discussed student fee increases, racism and worker exploitation. Similar to UCLA, many protesters focused on the rights of immigrants and undocumented students.

"Attacks on minorities and people of color have induced a recognition that all our struggles are linked and are part of a systemic and structural problem," said Abraham Medina, a UC Irvine junior and protest organizer, in an e-mail.

A march around campus began at 1:30 p.m. before spilling into the city's streets half an hour later, gathering additional demonstrators along the way.

Police escorted protesters along University Avenue, where the group blocked four lanes of traffic in its march toward Interstate Highway 73.

Demonstrators returned to campus and were unsuccessful in occupying a campus library due to an abundance of doors.

Tags: UCLA, UC IRVINE, MARCH PROTESTS


Contact Sarah Springfield at [email protected]



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