Walkouts and Protests happening at UC Berkeley over budget cuts….Those who fail to learn history…

September 24, 2009

At least they are not here to stop Memorial Stadium from getting a facelift

At least they are not here to stop Memorial Stadium from getting a facelift

Budget cuts in CA are no joke right now.  Friends that I have that are working at public institutions have mandatory time off right now.  People are being forced to work four day workweeks, in order to make the budget balance.

I thought that education was the key to a good life, but if you are a student and you can get the classes that you need to graduate, it become a catch-22.  The classes that are the prereqs for other classes are filled and the ones that you need are not available because you don’t have the first one in the sequence.

(09-24) 15:47 PDT BERKELEY — Thousands of UC students marched through downtown Berkeley and the area around campus this afternoon, staging a sit-down protest and blocking traffic as part of a demonstration against cuts to the university budget and proposed fee increases.

The unscheduled march started at the end of a two-hour rally on Sproul Plaza attended by an estimated 5,000 students, professors and other university employees. The protesters, shoulder to shoulder and chanting “Education should be free. No cuts, no fees,” marched through campus, passing by UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s office, and then went off campus to Shattuck Avenue, ultimately blocking all lanes of traffic for two block.

Turning up Bancroft Avenue, they marched to Telegraph Avenue, where they staged a sit-in at the entrance to the campus. By 3:30 p.m., the crowd had thinned to a few hundred,

Earlier, Dan Mogulof, a Cal spokesman said the crowd at the Sproul Plaza rally was the largest in recent memory.

Shannon Steen, of Save UC, a group formed two weeks ago to protest cuts at the statewide system, called the turnout extraordinary.

“This far exceeds anything we thought would happen,” she said. “This is an enormous success for the solidarity of the campus.”

The protests are part of a systemwide walkout, which caused many classes to be canceled at UC and other campuses.

The walkout is intended to reflect widespread frustration and anger as UC lays off hundreds of workers, imposes unpaid furloughs on nonunion employees and reduces courses to close a budget gap of more than $750 million – the result of dramatically reduced funding from the cash-poor state and higher operating costs.

UC’s governing board of regents is also expected to raise next year’s tuition to $10,302, not including housing. The 45 percent increase over last year’s tuition of $7,126 is also intended to close the put university’s budget gap, but many students say it will put a UC education out of their reach.

At the Telegraph Avenue entrance to the campus late this morning, a few hundred students, faculty and staff members picketed as more protesters streamed in, arriving for the noon rally at Sproul Plaza. By early afternoon, according to UC officials, police had estimated that 5,000 people were at the rally.

Fifth-year senior Lajuanda Asemota headed to the picket line, her white T-shirt emblazoned with a block lettered “walkout.”

“I’m just really trying to get the word out to younger students that it’s your right to walk out,” she said. “I feel it’s important to walk out because in the U.S. you are supposed to have the freedom to get an education, but not everybody does.”

Faculty urged the walkout to protest the UC decision to prohibit furloughs on teaching days, but that led to a broader effort by students, staff and professors to focus on deeper problems facing the university.

Key among their concerns is that the deep cuts will degrade the quality of UC and damage its role as an economic engine in California that produces top graduates doing the most innovative work in their fields.

Not all students, however, were skipping class. Sophomore Charlie Smith sat on a cement wall near Sather Gate at about 10 a.m., waiting for his 11 a.m. political science class to start.

He said he didn’t know much about the protest.

“I thought I had one class (at 9 a.m.). I showed up but no one was there,” he said.

Smith took the day of activism in stride.

“It seems like there’s always something going on,” he said.

Cal officials said it was difficult to know how many classes were canceled today or how many students honored the strike.

More than 1,000 professors and associate professors from all 10 campuses signed a petition urging the walkout and demanding that UC not cut the pay of anyone earning less than $40,000.

The protests also coincide with a one-day strike by the union representing about 12,000 researchers, computer technicians, lab assistants and other non-faculty employees who have been working without a contract for 18 months.

E-mail the writers at jtucker@sfchronicle.com and nasimov@sfchronicle.com

Obviously, I am glad that this ended peacefully, since rallies in Berkeley have the tendency to turn violent.  Three blocks from where the protest started, is the legendary rally/protest point, People’s Park.

Looks like a drug deal gone bad....

Looks like a drug deal gone bad....

I have some fond memories of the park.  It’s a shame the city of Berkeley turned this protest memorial into some sand volleyball pits and a hoop court. Wikipedia does a good job of explaining this park’s importance.

People’s Park in Berkeley, California, USA is a park off Telegraph Avenue, bounded by Haste and Bowditch Streets and Dwight Way, near the University of California, Berkeley. The park was created during the radical political activism of the late 1960s.

Today People’s Park serves as a free public park. Although accessible to members of the larger community, the park serves mainly as a daytime sanctuary for Berkeley’s large homeless population who, along with others, take advantage of meals offered by East Bay Food Not Bombs. Public restrooms are available, and the park offers innovative demonstration gardens, including organic community gardening beds and areas landscaped with California native plants, all of which were user-developed by volunteer gardeners. Many students make regular use of the basketball courts. A wider audience is attracted by occasional rallies, concerts, and hip-hop events conducted at the People’s Stage, a wooden bandstand designed and built on the western end of the park by volunteers organized by the People’s Park Council. Nearby residents and those who attempt to use the park for recreational purposes sometimes experience conflict with the more aggressive homeless denizens of People’s Park. [1][2][3][4]

The mythology surrounding the park is an important part of local culture. The surrounding South Campus neighborhood was the scene of a major confrontation between student protestors and law enforcement during May, 1969. A mural near the park, painted by Berkeley artist and lawyer Osha Neumann, depicts the shooting of James Rector, a student who died from shotgun wounds inflicted by law enforcement on May 15, 1969.

The final death blow for the purpose of People’s  Park was dealt in 1991.  I had some friends working the Berkeley Debate Institute at the time (I was there too, but I was living at home) and they decided to go out one evening and not have dinner in the cafeteria.  My buddy Nick saw what was going down from his dorm window and warned his buds and his students to not go down to the street.  The riot was bananas…

nice action shots of the police and more stories about the riot can be found here...

nice action shots of the police and more stories about the riot can be found here http://www.pandemonia.com/pandemonia/occupation/

The University built sand volleyball courts at the south end of the park in 1991, which set off demonstrations. After the university police began trying to clear the park of protesters and arrested some demonstrators, riots began. Opponents saw the building of volleyball courts as yet another attempt by the University to transform the park’s open space into eventual housing, parking, or other possible University-managed projects. They were dismantled in 1997. There had been little use by community members, and the costs of maintaining them were extraordinarily cost-ineffective.

They were going crazy….The police were just randomly messing with people, or when they felt threatened, just started shooting rubber or wooden bullets at large crowds of people.

damn....I tried to aviod the entire area, for fear of getting shot...

damn....I tried to aviod the entire area, for fear of getting shot...

One thing that the police forget is that the people can be quieted for awhile, but they will always rise up at a moment’s notice.  The rubber and wooden bullets did not stop the protesters from marching and defending the soul of the city…

For the students, this shows that we should have less fights about creating parking or volleyball courts, but to figure out some way to make education affordable.

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