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For the week of March 08, 2010

The Day of Action for education on March 4 brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators out coast to coast to call for protecting schools and colleges. Reuters counted more than 100 education events in over 30 states – and that’s just the ones they were tracking. A long list of the March 4 media coverage was compiled by the day’s organizers.

The Nation posted photos of actions around the nation. CNN’s round-up of the day’s news includes videos submitted by many UC participants, including that of a sit-in of UCLA’s Murphy Hall by hundreds of students and staff.

Some 2,000 students, staff, faculty and concerned community members rallied on the steps of the Capitol Building in Sacramento. A few days before, on March 1, five students were arrested as they sat-in at the office of a Republican legislator.

At UC Santa Cruz, protestors blocked both main entrances to campus, essentially closing it down for the day. By noon, campus administrators had told employees not to even try to come to work. Here’s a series of photographs of the action published on UCSC’s website.

At UC Berkeley, some 1,500 demonstrators marched from Sproul Plaza for 6 miles to converge with other marchers at a rally site in downtown Oakland. On the way, they draped banners over billboards and stopped at schools on the route to pick up participants. Some ten thousand protestors also converged on San Francisco City Hall after rallies in their neighborhoods around the bay area.

After the main Oakland rally ended, a group of about 160 demonstrators marched to a major freeway interchange, police in hot pursuit, and brought traffic to a halt for over an hour as police arrested and processed them.

Some 300 students at UC Davis who tried a similar freeway blockade scuffled with police, who used batons and fired pepper balls at them.

Rallies were also held at UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and UC Riverside.

Among many other demonstrations across the nation and the world, fifteen students were arrested in protests at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Students at Evergreen College in Olympia held a mock funeral for public education, and hundreds also gathered at the University of Washington in Seattle.

In California, legislators were generally supportive of the demonstrator’s goals, if not always their actions. “Students in California march, I stand with them,” wrote Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek) in a column in the Huffington Post, noting that pending legislation taxing oil production in California could help fund higher education. More about that legislation, Assembly Bill 656, is here.

The stakes are high, a UC history professor wrote in an opinion piece published in the San Francisco Chronicle on the March 4 Day of Action: no less than the Golden State’s future.

Reverberations continued from recent racist incidents at several UC campuses, most prominently at UCSD. On March 1, students at UC Berkeley staged a “Blackout” silent demonstration to protest the incidents. Also on March 1, the UCSD Guardian published an apology by a woman claiming to have innocently left the noose in UCSD’s Geisel Library, provoking a pointed reminder from a San Diego Union-Tribune columnist of the role of nooses US history. On March 2, a KKK-style hood was found on the statue of Theodore Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss, who was a benefactor of the library.

The UCSD press office on March 4 announced an agreement with the Black Student Union for reforms of curriculum, admissions, faculty recruitment, and resources to increase promote diversity on campus. African American students constitute less than 2% of the student body at UCSD, and recent reports have noted that UC’s enrollment of African American, Latino and Native American students is among the lowest in the nation.

The BSU-UC agreement drew the attention of Ward Connerly, architect of Proposition 209, which ended affirmative action at UC in 1996. Activists have cited Prop. 209 as a direct cause enrollment declines of students of color at UC. Connerly announced that he was going to San Diego to “review” the agreement.
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