Throughout the Bay Area and state on Thursday, supporters of public education joined a national protest against school funding cuts and mounting tuition costs, holding student walkouts, marches and demonstrations.
At UC Santa Cruz, hundreds of students blocked entrances to the campus, preventing cars and buses from entering, school officials said. At UC Davis, students staged a funeral for public education, complete with a coffin and bagpipes, according to Occupy Education organizers.
The protests at UC Berkeley and San Jose State were less dramatic. As the rain poured down in Berkeley, about 150 students and teachers gathered in Sproul Plaza and hoisted up banners with slogans such as "Occupy Education" and "Classics for public education" and "Cops off our campus." Police presence was minimal at the peaceful demonstration. San Jose State University students held a "Walkout! Reclaiming Our CSU" rally and march at noon, calling for fee rollbacks and more student and faculty input in decision making at the California State University level.
The California protests were a prelude to a major "Occupy the Capitol" rally in Sacramento on Monday. Some students and faculty members left Thursday for a "99 Mile March for Education and Social Justice" from Oakland to Sacramento. The protesters are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to reject any budget deal that includes higher education cuts or tuition increases. They also want the governor to support a ballot measure that would raise taxes on millionaires to pay for education and social services.
In Oakland, several hundred people gathered outside City Hall to send off the marchers. After they departed, a group of about 50, mostly college students, marched to Morgan Stanley to protest a risky interest rate swap deal the Peralta Community College District made with the bank before the recession began. The district pays between $1.4 million and $1.6 million annually as a result; activists demanded that the bank renegotiate the deal.
That money should instead be used for student services and more classes, said Janell Hampton of the Peralta Federation of Teachers and a part-time instructor at Laney College.
"They're not giving us the same break they got from the federal government," she said, referring to the $107 billion federal bailout package Morgan Stanley received in 2008.
Rallies and marches in Oakland were peaceful, though police arrested two Laney College students. It was not immediately clear why they were detained.
After school let out Thursday afternoon, more than 250 people, including teachers from neighboring school districts, fanned out in front of Castro Valley High School for a spirited rally against "these constant, unrelenting cuts," said Mike Myslinski, a spokesman for the California Teachers Association. Myslinski said the protest was expected to continue Thursday night at a Castro Valley school board meeting; pink slips and program cuts were on the agenda.
When the school bell rang at Berkeley High on Thursday afternoon, between 600 and 1,000 headed off campus and joined the march to the plaza outside Oakland City Hall. Students also marched from Laney College in Oakland to the plaza and then through downtown Oakland, chanting, "Education is a right, not just for the rich and white."
Staff writer Doug Oakley, the Associated Press and the Santa Cruz Sentinel contributed to this report.