California college students protest education cuts

By Terence Chea

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 1 2012 6:25 p.m. MST

Students are shown at a noontime rally at UC Santa Cruz during a protest of education funding on Thursday, March 1, 2012, in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Santa Cruz Sentinel, Shmuel Thaler, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Students, educators and Occupy Wall Street activists held demonstrations Thursday across California to protest state budget cuts to education, partially shutting down at least one college campus.

Hundreds of students blocked entrances to the University of California, Santa Cruz, and prevented cars and buses from entering the coastal campus, school officials said.

"The campus has been effectively closed to vehicles," said campus spokesman Jim Burns. "Clearly it's had an access impact for many students, staff and faculty."

School administrators had warned the campus about the protest. Many classes were canceled or rescheduled, and administrative offices were not fully staffed, Burns said.

The Santa Cruz blockade was among the demonstrations held on about 30 college campuses across California to protest rising tuition and call on lawmakers to restore funding to higher education. Rallies, marches, teach-ins and walkouts were scheduled to coincide with state budget negotiations, organizers said.

In San Francisco, about 200 demonstrators holding signs that read "Tax the Rich" and "Refund Education" held a teach-in in the lobby of the California State Building before attending an afternoon rally outside city hall. College students and Occupy activists around the country held demonstrations as part of a "National Day of Action for Education."

The California protests are a prelude to a major "Occupy the Capitol" rally in Sacramento on Monday. Students and faculty members planned a "99 Mile March for Education and Social Justice" from Oakland to the state capital over the next few days.

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.

"We've destroyed our tax base and we stopped funding the most important parts of our society," said Josh Brahinsky, a UC Santa Cruz graduate student and union representative who helped organize the action. "We're calling on the state to tax the wealthy and use that money to build services for all of us."

The campus demonstrations were coordinated by ReFund California, a coalition of student groups and labor unions that organized a series of sometimes rowdy campus protests during the fall.

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