Twenty masked individuals blockaded themselves within the Graduate Student Commons earlier today, following a rally at the base of campus.
Over-turned dumpsters, potted plants and students secured entry ways as a sizable crowd gathered in front of Joe’s Subs and at the building’s rear entrance. Individuals could be seen hauling chain-linked fencing to further block off access to the building.
Those standing in solidarity with the protesters, who themselves could not be reached for comment, said the protest was directed towards the recent budget allocations of the University of California Board of Regents, which resulted in thousands of lay-offs, mandatory furloughs and cuts to courses at the UC’s ten campuses.
“It’s not just about budget allocations,” third-year Emily Andersen said. “This is an entire critique of the way the university has been run.”
She and second-year Jackie Reinagel were among the dozen or so students at the rear entrance who committed to “defending the people inside” by positioning themselves in front of access points and, should the need arise, linking arms to prevent police from entering the building.
“[Budget issues] affect us all and I’m glad people here are getting involved in protest,” Reinagel said.
“I’m getting classes taught by T.A.’s instead of professors,” Andersen interjected. “I’m having sections cut. I hope people walk away from this and get more involved in politics instead of sitting around and complaining and take action themselves.”
Jim Burns, public relations officer for UC Santa Cruz, was about 100 yards from the protest, watching the scene amongst a group of university officials. He could not comment on the acts of the Commons’ occupants as he didn’t know enough details about who they were or what they were doing.
He did address some of the primary concerns the protesters and spectators had regarding the actions of the regents, emphasizing the need to recognize where the source of financial strain stemmed.
“This campus has sustained more than $50 million in budget reductions from the state of California,” he said. “That’s the reason why fees are increasing, that’s the reason there are lay-offs, that’s the reason there are furloughs, and that’s why access is being denied to a great public university.”
A student standing close to Joe’s Subs, who wished to remain anonymous, didn’t know too much about the issues at hand but said she wasn’t bothered by the occupation and protest.
“I think [the protest] is ridiculously important,” she said. “Even if the issue is small, people need to take action if they’re passionate about something. Organizing and protesting is important no matter what the issue.”
Protesters Andersen and Reinagel said the twenty occupants had been planning the take-over for weeks and are prepared to remain in the building indefinitely.