Students protest beneath the canopy of a handmade banana slug. Photo by Soraya Danesh.
Students protest beneath the canopy of a handmade banana slug. Photo by Soraya Danesh.

While college students in Sacramento lobbied legislators, some UC Santa Cruz students began the week with protests featuring a giant paper banana slug.

Manning a 12-person slug puppet and a rolling stereo sound system, about 40 students marched throughout the UCSC campus on Monday, March 1 from noon to 2 p.m.

Written on the giant yellow slug: “No fees, no furlough and no cuts to classes.”

One organizer, who asked not to be named, described the protesters’ motives.

“We are trying to raise awareness about March 4,” he said, “and the racist acts on UC campuses.”

The students, their faces covered by bandanas and sweatshirts, began coalescing in Quarry Plaza around noon.

They then marched, in the middle of the street, up Hagar Drive. Making a left onto McLaughlin, they marched up the right-hand lane. Many cars were left stranded in the middle of the road between students, and one campus bus was forced to let students out on the edge of the road.

On McLaughlin Drive, some masked protesters moved construction signs from both the Cowell Student Health Center and Biomedical Sciences Facility sites into the road, blocking traffic going both ways.

Students then turned onto Science Hill, making their way to the Science and Engineering Library.

From there, the protesters entered the College Nine and Ten Dining Hall, calling for awareness of the March 4 protest. Many students cheered and some took pictures of the larger-than-life slug.

Dining hall employees seemed amused by the marchers, but became angry when masked students began streaming up stairs toward Terra Fresca restaurant.

Police detained one student as protesters, standing outside the dining hall, began drumming on windows yelling “Let him go!”

Once the student was released, the protesters left the dining hall. Many pushed over dining hall signs, angering workers who were outside.

University administrators observing the march said that the protest would not be stopped unless it disturbed other students or workers inside buildings, or damaged property.

Michelle Whittingham, an associate vice chancellor who followed the march around campus relaying the student’s actions to other administrators, enjoyed the sight of the yellow construction-paper slug.

“It should be reused for school spirit,” Whittingham said.

Walking back down McLaughlin Drive, protesters stopped at the Humanities buildings, entering the large lecture hall and adjacent buildings. They then attempted to enter the Cowell-Stevenson Dining Hall but were blocked by dining hall workers.

As they made their way out of Cowell College, Gary Roe, a groundsperson at Cowell, gave the protesters some advice: “Go to Sacramento, talk to Schwarzenegger,” he said.

“It’s a great cause,” Roe said, “[but] time can be better spent going to the source.”

The protesters attempted to enter many lecture halls, including Classroom Units 1 and 2, but were forced out by professors and students.

“There is an incredibly disturbing level of antipathy [among UCSC students] toward protesting,” said Leo Ritz-Barr, a third-year politics major from College Nine.

Barr, who held up the head of the puppet slug, said it took four hours to build.

Jim Burns, the director of public information at UCSC, said the administration approves of protesting state budget cuts to the University of California, but not of tactics that disrupt learning and working at the university.

“People have the right to be concerned about the state’s divestment in higher education,” Burns said, “[but] to the extent that [demonstrating] is infringing on other people — that’s not so great.”

For Thursday, March 4, the protesters said that they had two more giant yellow paper slugs ready to snake around campus in a march for higher education.