Education

"Day of Action" protesters arrested in Oakland

Thursday, March 04, 2010
Protesters shut down I-880/980 freeway. Nearly 150 protesters shut down the I-980/880 connector ramp. A splinter group from the Oakland rally blocked traffic on the I-980/880 connector ramp. A group of art students from Clayton Valley High School cut class and took to the streets of Concord holding new lost generation signs A group of protesters participating in the Day of Action marched from UC Berkeley to Oakland City Hall.

Students in California lead a statewide protest against education budget cuts that has also inspired demonstrations around the country. They called it a "Day of Action."

150 protesters arrested for blocking I-980/880 connector

Nearly 150 demonstrators were arrested, cited, and released after they shut-down the I-980/880 freeway in Oakland. They were all taken to the Alameda County Jail

Students expressed their frustration and anger on Thursday morning at a loud, but peaceful rally at UC Berkeley. Then, about 1,000 people moved along Telegraph Avenue, walking six miles to Oakland City Hall.

That is where they hooked up with students from Laney College and other schools in the East Bay. The huge rally was peaceful. It was supposed to end at 5 p.m., but more than 100 protesters broke off into smaller groups, many wearing black bandannas, the signature trademark of the so-called anarchists.

They zigzagged toward the Oakland office of UC president Mark Yudof, but police barricades stopped them. The protestors then headed for Highway 880. Their strategy was to disrupt highway traffic.

Student Raina DeShields opted not to go.

"I went to 10th and Castro and on the way there some of the organizers told us the people were going to go on the freeway. They said it was a high risk of arrest and they warned us. When we got to Castro some people decided to take the freeway started to walk on the freeway by foot and then the people who didn't want to stayed on the sidewalk," said DeShields.

Suddenly, a large group charged the freeway. Some were arrested before they could get on.

"They blocked the northbound freeway at I-980 and then they crossed over the southbound side of I-980 and the I-880 split," said Oakland Police spokesman Officer Jeff Thomason.

Police chased the protestors as they weaved dangerously in and out of commuter traffic. Cars came to a screeching halt, the traffic backing up for miles. It was a chaotic scene as drivers stepped out of their cars to watch.

Police subdued the protestors one by one. In all, police say about 150 people were arrested.

One person reportedly tried to elude police by jumping off the freeway onto a tree, but he fell instead to the pavement about 25 feet below. He was first listed in critical condition. Police say he was taken to the hospital, but was later cited and released to his parent.

Eventually all off the protesters would be placed in buses and transported to the North County Jail. Many protestors ABC7 spoke with said the highway disruption was justified.

"It is risky and it is dangerous, but they're doing it for a purpose, a very, very, very important purpose," said student protester Kosondra Crump.

All of the protesters arrested will be charged with misdemeanors, unlawful assembly, and blocking a freeway. They will be processed at the Alameda County Jail, sighted, and released at some point.

San Francisco's protest took place at the Civic Center

A large protest at San Francisco's Civic Center remained peaceful. It was one of three major regional rallies in California.

The Civic Center is a pretty big place and there was a lot going on at 6 p.m. There were speakers and a rock group made up of San Francisco and Bay Area educators. Lots of people showed up to show their support for education in a peaceful way.

A march started in the Mission District of San Francisco and grew as people walked towards the Civic Center.

The statewide "Day of Action" called on lawmakers to stop making cuts to education. At Washington High School in San Francisco students protested layoffs, larger class sizes and cuts to programs if the education budget is slashed.

The state has cut some $17 billion to education in the past two years. The governor is now proposing $2.5 billion more.

The California Teachers Association says nearly 19,000 teachers will be laid off. By law teachers must be notified by March 15.

In San Francisco in the past two years, those layoffs were rescinded thanks to the city's rainy day fund. This year, teachers are less optimistic. Educators are expecting $113 million in cuts in the next two years because of the state's money problems. So many teachers will be laid off, one principal says expect to see grade levels combined.

Examples like that motivated thousands of people to gather in the city's Civic Center plaza for a loud but well behaved demonstration. The crowd was full of parents, educators and students of all ages.

Protestors found the presence of so many kids both inspiring and heartbreaking.

"I'm mad because my school Starr King we don't have enough supplies and some of us, we can't even afford field trips," said student Zurline Hurst.

The rally was planned for the plaza, but just for good measure, they yelled at City Hall too.

When the steps of City Hall filled with people, security decided to close the building. Police also shut down the section of Polk Street in front of City Hall since it too had filled with protestors. Activists say they hope to keep this momentum going.

No arrests were made, the plaza was cleaned up by the end of the night and the rally started and ended on time and was a problem-free event.

Many protesters say this is just the beginning of their fight to save education in California.

Protests at other campuses

About 100 UC Davis students threatened to shut down I-80 Thursday afternoon, but as they tried to walk onto the freeway. Police fired pepper balls into the crowd and officers in riot gear used batons to push back the protesters. At least one student leader was arrested, but was released when protesters agreed to disperse. Dozens of demonstrators gathered again Thursday night in Downtown Davis where they sat in the street.

In Santa Cruz, hundreds of protestors walked through the downtown area Thursday night, bringing traffic to a stop. It came at the end of a day-long strike, during which students shut off access to the campus at several points and clashed with residents. Earlier in the day, at least one car reported a smashed windshield, but there were no injuries. By 9 p.m., most of the demonstrators had dispersed from the downtown area.

Dozens of high school students and teachers from Oakland High School recognized this "Day of Action" by conducting an evacuation disaster drill. They held signs saying state budget cuts are in the billions of dollars and are a disaster for local schools.

Thursday's "Day of Action" is a nationwide protest happening in at least 33 states, to challenge each state's lawmakers to stop cutting education funding. California is expected to have the bulk of organized protests, in response to the last two years of cuts of $17 billion from schools and colleges statewide. Protesters say they believe legislators will listen to this massive public response.

While it is true California is in the midst of an economic crisis, children are bearing a disproportionate amount of the burden for the state's financial problem. Education funding accounts for 40 percent of the state budget, but schools have suffered 60 percent of the cuts.

"Day of Action" at Mt. Diablo School District

Hundreds of Mt. Diablo School District parents, teachers and students took to the streets Thursday at Oak Grove and Ygnacio Valley Road to let the world know about the crisis they perceive in education. There were other demonstrations in the area; some were very organized, some not, but all agree that when it comes to cutting education spending, enough is enough.

Calling themselves the "new lost generation," a group of art students from Clayton Valley High School cut class and took to the streets of Concord, afraid for the future of their beloved Clayton Arts Academy. They taped their mouths to show they have no voice.

"They're cutting 10 electives and over the next year they're going to cut 25 classes, and that is going to affect the arts," said Clayton Valley High School student Pablo Benavente. "At the Clayton Arts Academy we're fighting to do our best."

Just up the street at Pine Hollow Middle School, students were brought out and lined up to be part of this "Day of Action." One student knows what action he would like lawmakers and the governor to take.

"Everything the kids love to do, live for -- band, orchestra, arts -- they're just stripping it down to the basics," said 8th grade student Joey Carman. "If they do that, kids aren't going to focus. They're going to have nothing to look forward to during the day."

Over at Monte Gardens Elementary in Concord, a mock multi-million dollar bake sale took place to illustrate the multi-million dollar need in this district alone. Dean Vogel, the vice president of the California Teachers Association, which represents 325,000 educators, rolled out the numbers.

"California public schools suffered more than $17 billion in cuts over the past two years," said Vogel. "And even now, the governor is talking about cutting $2.5 billion more."

Teacher Claire Key of Monte Gardens Elementary, who is also a parent, wondered about her students and her children.

"What is, in this worst-case scenario, what is the bare minimum we must provide for children just so we can balance the budget on their backs?" said Key. "For me, that's not acceptable. As a parent, our children deserve more."

"Day of Action" in the South Bay

The "Day of Action" in the South Bay included numerous activites. Students at De Anza College took part in a morning teach-in, a noon rally at the main quad and a march to Cupertino City Hall.

In San Jose, the action began with a march that started at City Hall and went to San Jose State University.Things were peaceful on the campus and the theme of the students and protestors has been "keep the campus open."

SJSU students and faculty are protesting education cuts that say is affecting the quality of their education. The state funding for SJSU was suppose to be $163 million and it was cut by $42 million for the 2009-2010 school year. The most immediate impact of those cuts was a 30 percent increase in student fees and a reduction in faculty and class offerings.

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uc berkeley, sacramento, school cuts, budget cuts, uc santa cruz, education
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