Hundreds of College Students Protest Across Country, Rallying Against Funding Cuts to Public Education on Day of Protest

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While there was a relatively small turnout to UC Berkeley's campus protest Wednesday in opposition to California's cuts to public education, other campuses nationwide hosted like-minded events in a display of solidarity with varied levels of support.

From coast to coast, students marched, rallied and even occupied buildings in order to show their disdain for public education budget cuts as part of the day of protest.

In San Francisco, students and faculty from San Francisco State University marched for about two miles through gloom and rain to the City College of San Francisco's Mission campus, where at 2 p.m. more than 200 gathered in a joint rally.

Campuses like UCLA, UC Irvine and UC Davis organized rallies despite experiencing the same poor weather as Bay Area universities.

A noon rally on Bruin Plaza at UCLA attracted between 200 and 300 people, according to Bob Samuels, president of the University Council - American Federation of Teachers - a union which represents lecturers, UC faculty and librarians.

A few hundred students at UC Santa Cruz focused their efforts over two days, first enacting a "naked protest" Tuesday by spelling out the words "Free Education" with their bare bodies on the campus's East Field. On Wednesday, about 300 rallied in Quarry Plaza at noon to protest the campus's refusal to institute an ethnic studies program.

After rallying, about 75 students began occupying the Ethnic Resource Center at around 2 p.m. and were expected to stay through the night as of press time.

"We want to highlight the fact that this is a safe space for students of color when most people don't know where it is," said UC Santa Cruz student organizer Leo Ritz-Barr. "We're here to help the conversation, not to steer it."

UC Santa Cruz students were not the only ones to occupy buildings to declare their beliefs - several hundred students joined public workers in the occupation of the Wisconsin state Capitol building in opposition to Gov. Scott Walker's proposed 9 percent cut to state education funding as well as his proposal to take away most collective bargaining powers from public state employee union members.

Samuels said that efforts to plan protests at UCLA may have benefited from social media publicity.

"We were going to do a much smaller thing, but because people wanted to rally in support of Wisconsin, we wanted to bring in other people," he said.

Facebook events promoting the day of action mobilized protests at UCLA, UC Riverside, and CSU Northridge by providing times and locations for activists to congregate.

On the East Coast, schools including the University of Central Florida and Stony Brook University in New York also held rallies, aided in part by representatives from the United States Student Association - a national student advocacy group. Jake Stillwell, the association's communications director, said the organization's involvement in student protests varies depending on each campus's individual needs.

"We're really trying to make this so its not an isolated day of action," he said. "We're trying to take this message to the (nation's) capital and really hammer this home."

Despite relatively low turnout at student rallies across the nation, some activists said they are optimistic about the day's results and future protests.

"It's just as perfect and whiny as a newborn baby can be," Ritz-Barr said.

Nina Brown of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.


Contact Damian Ortellado and True Shields at [email protected]

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