Fund education, jobs for youth: March 4 actions from coast to coast
Posted by raleighfist on March 11, 2010
By Monica Moorehead
On March 4 more than 100 demonstrations were organized in 33 states against the devastating cuts, layoffs and tuition hikes as part of the National Day of Action to Defend Education, including campuses such as the University of Maryland and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The following reports are examples of some of these significant protests, which are signs pointing to the potential of a revitalized national youth and student fight-back movement reminiscent of the 1960s.
For a full slideshow of photos from these different actions, click here!
BAY AREA, CALIF.
Tens of thousands of youth, students, parents, teachers, school workers and progressive allies took to the streets all over the Bay Area to “take a stand for public education.” This protest was the united response to more than $20 billion in state, federal and local cuts to public schools. The success of the protest was largely due to a truly grassroots convergence of protesters, from kindergarten students to the Gray Panthers.
The events began with major classroom walk-outs. At the University of California, Berkeley, students disrupted classes and led a massive walk-out. Students then marched to Oakland, where Bay Area students gathered for a rally of several thousand people.
In Oakland and Davis, Calif., students marched across the freeway ramps and blocked traffic on two interstate highways. More than 150 young people were arrested in Oakland after occupying Interstate 880 during rush hour. One young man suffered a head injury from falling from a freeway ramp after being chased by the police.
Leafleting, rallies and teach-ins were held throughout the Bay Area. Many teachers brought the protest into their classrooms. In West Contra Costa and Berkeley, teachers rallied and leafleted on busy street corners throughout the day.
The protests culminated in a massive multinational presence at City Hall Plaza in San Francisco. Fueled by recently revealed plans by Mayor Gavin Newsom to lay off more than 10,000 city workers, thousands gathered demanding an end to budget cuts.
Chanting “Education should be free — no cuts — no fees,” many held signs stating, “California 1st in prisons, 48th in education.”
NEW YORK CITY
Even before the rally began at 4 p.m., hundreds of students had already gathered in front of New York Gov. David Patterson’s office in midtown Manhattan. The rally was co-chaired by March 4 Coalition members Larry Hales from Fight Imperialism, Stand Together and Jackie Mariano, a Hunter College student and GABRIELA activist. By the time the march stepped off a little after 5 p.m., a multinational group of at least 2,000 people, mainly students and youth, took to the streets loudly demanding full funding for education.
Participating on the march was a strong delegation from the Professional Staff Congress along with representatives from the Transport Workers Union Local 100, Bail Out the People Movement, Peoples Organization for Progress and other workers and progressives in solidarity with students and teachers facing devastating budget cuts. The lead banner was carried by high school youth from Lyons Community School and Pace High School. Once the march reached the Fashion Institute of Technology — site of a Metropolitan Transit Authority hearing — the police prevented the protesters from joining an outdoor rally of the TWU and from attending the hearing. Minor scuffles broke out between the youth and police for the next two hours. The MTA is threatening major layoffs for the TWU, the elimination of free MetroCards for students and more service cuts and fare hikes for the general public. Read more about the NYC action in Hales’ interview on page 7.
Upwards of 1,000 youth and students, the majority of them African American, held a spirited, militant protest at a juvenile detention jail. More than a dozen youth carried out a heroic civil disobedience action inside the jail, while many police looked on. There were no arrests. Organized by the Algebra Project, the protest by these youth and their supporters, including the Bail Out the People Movement, demanded that $100 million be spent on jobs and education for youth, not jails.
At the University of North Carolina at Asheville, the campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society organized a film screening of “Walkout,” about the Chicano/a student movement in California during the late 1960s. At Salem College in Winston-Salem, Salem Against War organized a teach-in and community forum about public education, including attempts to resegregate the schools. North Carolina State University students organized a petition drive against tuition hikes and budget cuts, and dropped several banners around campus against education cuts.
At UNC Chapel Hill, students organized a week of action leading up to a demonstration on March 4. On March 1, the ad-hoc March 4 coalition organized a street theater action on campus that showed the massive amount of student debt — on average $18,000 per student in North Carolina. On March 3, a campus discussion on local and national education cuts and tuition hikes was held.
About 60 students, workers, and faculty members gathered on March 4 for a “Funk the Cuts” rally followed by a march to the administration building. Chanting “No cuts, no fees, education must be free” and “They say cutback, we say fight back!” the march swelled up the front steps of the building. Once there, a group of nine students held a sit-in inside the building, presenting the chancellor with a statement and list of demands, including chop from the top, no privatization or commercialization of the university, an increase on corporate taxes to fill the budget shortfalls, and for full and equal access to education for undocumented students.
The students read articles aloud from Workers World newspaper during the sit-in, which ended after nearly an hour with no arrests. The chancellor agreed to meet with students to discuss their demands in two weeks.
The statewide coalition that formed around March 4 is building for another action on March 9 at the meeting of the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee, where tuition hikes approved by the UNC Board of Governors will be voted on.
A diverse group of labor, community and students rallied at Wayne State University followed by a march through the campus with more students joining in. Chanting “Bail out the students, not the banks” and hoisting signs such as “Money for education, not War,” “Cancel student loan debt,” “Schools, not prisons,” and “Jobs NOW!,” the march ended with another rally at the Detroit Public Schools administration building to protest the ongoing union-busting, charter school implementation and privatization of DPS schools.
Speakers at the rallies included members of the Union of Part-Time Faculty-American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors-AFT at WSU; FIST-Detroit; Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice; Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs; Veterans for Peace; Graduate Employee Organization-AFT, University of Michigan Ann Arbor; Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan; Solidarity; Critical Moment and By Any Means Necessary.
A protest organized by the Education Rights Campaign at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was physically attacked by the police, resulting in the arrests of 15 protesters. The ERC, initiated by Milwaukee SDS, consist of more than 20 organizations demanding to lower high-level administrative salaries, democratize the school, and establish just policies for workers and students.
As the protesters peacefully marched to the chancellor’s office to deliver petitions and make a statement that students and workers will fight cuts, the chancellor and university administration locked their office doors, called the police, and then watched from their windows students being maced and beat up by campus police.
The 15 people charged with “unlawful assembly” face a total of $4,255.50 in fines — almost a semester of tuition at UWM! Milwaukee SDS is demanding that all charges be dropped; an apology from the police for excessive use of force and for a public hearing with the chancellor on the impact of the economic crisis on the university. Go to http://www.sdsmke.com.
Teachers, students, community activists, bus drivers and unionists endured bitter cold winds at a March 3 protest and press conference in front of the Boston School Committee office held by the Coalition for Equal Quality Education. The rally opposed the committee’s plans to cut $50 million from the budget, close schools, lay off and fire teachers and expand privatized, for-profit education at the expense of public schools.
The rally was chaired by Sandra McIntosh of Work for Quality, Fight for Equity and the chair of CEQE. City Councilor Chuck Turner condemned the inadequate funding of education in the communities of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan. He declared that charter schools failed to serve English language learners and special education students, and created a two-tier education system. The Bail Out the People Movement, Women’s Fightback Network, International Action Center, Workers World and other groups called for full funding for education; no to privatization and charter schools; money for schools, not bank bailouts and war; and no resegregation of the Boston schools.
Phebe Eckfeldt of the Union of Harvard Clerical and Technical Employees and Ed Childs of Local 26 Unite/HERE, Harvard Cafeteria Workers, linked the banks dictating cutbacks and layoffs at Harvard to the bank privatization of public schools.
Miya X of FIST called on youth to participate in the upcoming budget hearings and a demonstration on March 24. Andre Francois of USW Local 8751, the Boston School Bus Drivers, condemned the attack on services for the students, including transportation and limiting parents and students choices of schools to attend as a racist attempt to further resegregate Boston schools.
On March 4 more than 100 students rallied at the University of Massachusetts Boston against budget cuts and privatization, layoffs and outsourcing. After a spirited rally they marched through the campus buildings, garnering an enthusiastic response from students. Later, the students participated in a teach-in on how to continue the struggle against budget cuts and fee increases.
Thousands of K-12 teachers and support staff joined the angry voices of the education community statewide to protest the serious cuts and attacks on free public education and other vital community services in California. Elementary and secondary teachers started off the long day with informational pickets before school, some starting as early as 5:30 a.m. Then after a full day of teaching, teachers spread out to various locations to join the protests.
United Teachers of Los Angeles already suffered losses of 1,000 teachers last year. If the district and state government have their way, student-counselor ratios will be 1,000-to-1, student-teacher ratios will be 29-to-1 for kindergarten-to-3rd grades, and the number of school nurses and librarians will be slashed. Go to http://www.utla.net.
A militant and angry protest was held on the University of California, San Diego, La Jolla campus in response to the latest racist outrage — a Ku Klux Klan hood placed on campus (Read article in last week’s Workers World). In mid-afternoon in Balboa Park, several thousand students, teachers and area activists of all ages assembled for a rally and spirited march downtown to the State Office Building. The level of militancy at the Balboa Park rally, already high following angry speeches and political presentations by youth rappers, became further energized when a large group of chanting students from UCSD marched into the rally area. As they passed the city jail, marchers chanted, “Money for education, not incarceration!” Then, at the State Office Building, the crowd of nearly 5,000, overwhelmingly youth of color, closed off the street, forcing police to redirect traffic.
Providence students, groups such as PRISM (Providence student and youth movement), DARE Youth, supporters including Councilman John Lombardi and representatives from the George Wiley Center, and RI Tenants & Homeowners Association endured cold rain and snow in an action in front of the Providence School Department against plans to close seven elementary, middle and high schools over the next two years. Many of the students took the mic to decry the closings and to call for more funding for public education. Then, as James Brown’s music blasted over the sound system, they went onto Westminster Street waving their placards, getting honks and ‘shout-outs’ from passing motorists.
The event was emceed by Jauz Everliving of The 420 Crew, which promotes education with hip-hop culture. The event was co-sponsored by Save Our Schools Coalition and The RI Unemployed Council.
Fighting against 26 percent funding cuts and a 14 percent yearly tuition increase, students walked out at the University of Washington. More than a thousand students, joined by university workers, rallied on campus. They then marched to the nearby business district. The action was called by the Student Worker Coalition, which demanded an end to economic attacks against students of color and low-income students. They also protested speedups and layoffs of campus workers. The action was endorsed by three campus unions.
UPSTATE NEW YORK
Two hundred students and their supporters marched in the streets from the Liberty Pole to Rochester City Hall protesting the proposed takeover of the city school district by the mayor. The community sees this attempted mayoral control as a first step in privatization of public education here. The march was initiated and organized by Rochester SDS.
SDS and the New York Public Interest Research Group organized a 12 hour sit-in in the Syracuse University Bird Library calling for lock-in tuition rates, student representation on the Board of Trustees and a limit on administrators’ salaries.
Ryan Hickey, SDS spokesperson, said the money should go to teaching assistants and graduate student faculty with low salaries and few fringe benefits.
In addition, protesters set up a “snowman army” in front of SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s office, to reinforce their demands. The sit-in also addressed the State’s $148.8 million in budget cuts toward State University of New York.
At Onondaga County Community College, current and former SUNY OCC students and members of Syracuse Solidarity Network held a demonstration under the slogan: “No tuition hikes! We didn’t get a bailout!”
At Ed Smith School, local schoolchildren, parents and others rallied to protest cuts in state education funding. Rally organizers included Syracuse Teachers Association and Citizens Action of New York. The Syracuse school system faces an $18 million shortfall in its 2010-11 budget.
In Buffalo, a protest was held in front of the downtown Erie County Holding Center by the Erie County Prisoners Rights Coalition.
Bill Bateman, Lydia Bayoneta, Sharon Black, Ben Carroll, Sara Catalinotto, Ellie Dorritie, Judy Greenspan, Bob McCubbin, Jim McMahon, Frank Neisser, Bryan G. Pfeifer and Minnie Bruce Pratt contributed to this roundup.