For video coverage of this event, check out City on a Hill Press’ section on the website: http://www.sctv28.com.
Despite the rain drenching the gathered crowd of between 100-200, spirits were high. Occupy Education strikers gathered at the entrances of UC Santa Cruz since 4:00 a.m. Student and faculty protesters congregated on March 1 for the state-wide Day of Action, hiding from the rain between tents and a truck bearing blaring speakers.
“It is our expectation that the participants will remain respectful of the needs of the broader campus community and that the day will unfold in a safe and positive manner,” according to the announcement.
At 8:30 a.m., a Ford Mustang attempted to break through a student barricade. Some students were knocked over by the car, but were rescued by other protesters.
“We were just standing there, trying to keep warm,” said Abby Edwards. “Next thing I knew I was on top of the hood and then on the ground. We weren’t even on the front line.”
UC Santa Cruz police chief Nader Oweis said that this incident was of concern to the UCSC police. They are still interviewing witnesses, and charges have yet to be pressed.
“Having that car attack, it worried us. Our goal is to keep everybody safe. We just don’t want any altercations,” Oweis said.
Oweis said that the top priority of the UCSC police department was safety.
“At 5:00 p.m., there are going to be a lot of families trying to get off campus with their kids,” Oweis said. “I’m worried about when it gets dark. We just want to make sure nobody gets hurt.”
Graduate student Omid Mohamadi had a similar appraisal of the situation.
“The guy who hit the protesters was angry from the beginning. We kept the line and stayed peaceful,” Mohamadi said. “I think there is a silent agreement between us and the police to keep things peaceful.”
Besides this and other incidents, the protest otherwise remained relatively calm. But some students were disappointed by the relatively low turnout.
“What has it come to?” asked an unnamed female protester. “More people show up for 4/20. Things shut down completely for 4/20. I expected a lot more.”
Mohamadi thought that the turnout was acceptable, given the weather.
“Despite the rain, people are still out here,” he said.
Speakers blaring Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” obscured the voices of some protesters and it was difficult to spot clear leaders, but protesters made their opinions heard nonetheless.
“I’m here because I don’t think there’s any other way for students to be heard,” said another protester. “I think we relate to certain services in the wrong way–health care, public education. These are for the public good, and should be treated as such. My little sister wants to come to [the] UC, and my family isn’t going to be able to send her.”
Some UC workers empathized with the protesters’ grievances. Union worker George McCombie of AFSCME 3299 (the UC worker’s union) wasn’t able to work on campus due to the blocked entrances, but took the opportunity to attend the protest.
“I’m out here to support the students. When I started working here ten years ago, tuition was just over $3000; it’s doubled twice since then,” McCombie said. “I have a nine-year-old son– at this rate, by the time he’s university age, it’ll be over $50,000. It’s not sustainable.”
McCombie said the UC needs to take budget cuts in administrative departments.
“Faculty is the brains, unions are the brawn, and administrators are the fat. That’s where we should cut–administrator salaries, UCOP,” McCombie said. “We should spare faculty and keep class sizes down.”
The protest is slated to run until roughly 8:00 pm–at time of publication, the protest is still ongoing. The protest is scheduled to move to Sacramento on March 5th.