Posted on March 18, 2012 by the Website Workers Council

The following report on the March 5 day of action to defend eduction is an excerpt from this article in Liberation, the newspaper on the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

Ten thousand university, community college and high school students, educators and community activists marched on the California State Capitol in Sacramento March 5 to protest cuts in higher education in an action called "Occupy the Capitol." The students, education workers and others marched through the streets to the Capitol to demand funding for public education. Many chanted “They say ‘cut back’ we say 'fight back!’” and “No cuts, no fees, education should be free!”

The marchers then participated in a spirited rally on the lawn in front of the Capitol. Hundreds entered the building to participate in a general assembly to raise the demands to fully fund education and social services, to tax the rich, to reject Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget and to defend free speech and the right of assembly. Almost 70 people were arrested when they refused to leave.

The protests were sparked by state budget cuts that have led to sharp increases in tuition and a decrease in the number of courses offered at public universities and colleges. Last July, Brown signed a new budget into law in which $750 million was cut from both the California State University and University of California budgets. This has prompted both systems to raise tuitions and fees for their students. The cost of tuition has tripled at California’s public universities over the past decade.

Attending the rally in Sacramento was Peta Lindsay, presidential candidate for the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Lindsay raised the campaign demand that all student debt be canceled.

The March 5 “Occupy the Capitol” action followed the March 1 “International Day of Action to Defend Education and Social Services” held in many communities around the state. Students and faculty around the country organized demonstrations and teach-ins protesting budget cuts to education and educational inequality, and advocated for quality and affordable education for all. Students also walked off their campuses, marching through their communities to raise awareness of the issues they face in obtaining an education.

After school on March 1, hundreds of people gathered in San Francisco’s Civic Center to demand full funding for education and social services. Members of Teachers for Public Education spoke at the rally and said that education is a right and that it must be priority, along with jobs, health care and affordable housing.

“The 99 Mile March for Education and Social Services” was launched, leaving from Oakland and Berkeley heading to Sacramento, carrying banners, picket signs and an oversized pencil. A member of the PSL marched as well and documented the experience.

Only direct action in the streets will force real change; lobbying politicians will get the movement nowhere. Without unified action in the streets, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will change the priorities of the system when it comes to addressing the needs of students and their teachers.

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