“Tax, tax, tax the rich — we can stop the deficit!”
Around 300 students, teachers and community activists encircled a statue of Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella in the state Capitol’s rotunda as they chanted for a change in state budgetary priorities.
Roughly 60 UC Santa Cruz students joined teachers from the California Teachers Association union (CTA), community activists and other college students in Sacramento on Monday. Students from CSU Sacramento were expected to have a larger presence, but some UCSC students said they may not have been informed.
The rally over budget cuts and just taxation of corporations and the rich ended with 68 total arrests, including 23 UCSC students. Despite the expectation of a larger turnout, fifth-year Melissa Cornelius said the mass arrest was effective in terms of publicity.
“They’re putting so many cuts on vulnerable people in the state, so I think the [mass arrest] was a beginning response to that,” Cornelius said. “It plays a role in bringing attention to the issue … People don’t have to take state legislation if they don’t want to.”
Numerous CTA members from across the state did not teach on Monday in order to travel to Sacramento to participate in the rally and voice their opinions.
“If we don’t have [tax] extensions, there will be 35–40 kindergarten through third grade students per teacher in our district,” said second grade teacher Greta Benavides from South Whittier.
Kindergarten teacher Jessica Hobbs from San Francisco had a different reason to be there, as she marched in the sea of matching CTA light blue shirts reading “We Are One.”
“We need to change our tax structure where corporations and the rich are justly taxed,” Hobbs said. “That’d save our budget deficit situation.”
Around 200 CTA members were present, and six stayed and were arrested, second-year Noah Miska said. UCSC students said it was hard to occupy the Capitol, as the CTA members had multiple priorities and many were on the fence about staying.
“It was difficult to get a clear message from everyone on what they’d do,” Miska, who was arrested, said. “If everyone at the rally would’ve stayed we wouldn’t have been arrested.”
The majority of CTA members left after the hour-long rally when their permit to be in the rotunda expired at 6 p.m.
“They were using the imagery of what happened in Wisconsin, but were lobbying,” Cornelius said. “That’s not what happened in Wisconsin.”
The rally caught the eye of San Rafael City Council member Marc Levine. While most passersby clad in business attire walked through the crowd of activists without paying attention, Levine clapped with the beat of the chants and reminisced about his experiences protesting 16 years ago as a CSU Northridge student.
“I have awe and respect for them,” Levine said. “I’m here to support them.”
Neha Sobti, a community activist, came by bus from San Francisco. Sobit said she found activism of this nature important in general, as she’s pursuing a career in education, and on this day particularly, because she could afford to be there when others could not.
“I can use my body in place of teachers who can’t,” Sobti said, about rallying on a school day.
The activists who stayed past 6 p.m. continued chanting, “We’re doing this for your children.”
Miska said it had an impact on the California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers, who were more courteous than the police officers.
“[CHP officers] didn’t want to make eye contact,” Miska said. “They were just following orders.”
After the arrests, the activists were eventually taken to the county jail, where they were kept in holding cells.
“They were disgusting, like being in a public bathroom for seven hours,” he said.
The students were released the next morning starting at 3 a.m., and Miska and Cornelius said they were thankful supportive students waited around for them.
Though first-year Adam Odsess-Rubin did not stay for the full occupation, he said everyone’s presence was essential.
“Unless students stand up, the government will keep cutting,” Odsess-Rubin said. “That’s why I’m here. My education is important and I value it.”