A diverse coalition of people walked the final mile of a 365-mile march in protest of state budget cuts to education on Wednesday, April 21.
Protesters filled three city blocks on their way to the Capitol.
Rain beat down on the group as they gathered in a Sacramento park before it became a drizzle.
The 48-day march, dubbed The March for California’s Future, began with five “core” walkers. A San Diego community college professor, a Los Angeles probation officer, a Watsonville teacher, a Marina del Ray substitute teacher, and a retired Los Angeles teacher began to walk in Bakersfield, with the ultimate goal of rallying on the steps of the Capitol.
“I am marching because I believe the only hope for education is for us to get out in the streets and educate people about how we fund public education in California,” said Jenn Laskin. She has taught for 11 years at Renaissance Continuation High School in Watsonville, and was among the group of core walkers.
The group was joined along the way by teachers, students, union members, public service employees, and parents and grandparents of students, among many others. They came out, most for hours and some for days, to show support for the walkers and solidarity with the movement.
The crowd held almost as many umbrellas as picket signs in the air, relics of their willingness to face the weather.
Felix Cabrera, a second-year at the City College of San Francisco, joined the march to express his own frustration over his inability to take the classes he needs to graduate.
“The current budget crisis and the cuts to education are forcing me to take more courses per semester, but take longer to graduate,” Cabrera said. “Not only that, but because of the cuts to the UC system I might not get into the schools I want. They’re just preventing my future from really happening.”
More than a thousand protestors filled the Capitol lawn as students from San Francisco State University opened the rally with a skit starring “The Draculator,” a vampiric satire of the governor who “also represents the generous bankers and the brave generals … who want to suck the blood from each and every one of you.” An 8-foot tall paper maché puppet played the role of The Draculator’s victim, a student still paying back loans from beyond the grave.
This was followed by several speeches from representatives of the numerous sponsoring organizations and unions, including the United Farm Workers, the California Teacher’s Association, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The speakers focused on rallying the crowd around the state budget’s need to better fund social services.
Doug Moore, international vice president of AFSCME, called for continued activism to affect this change.
“We will not restore the California dream by the end of this march, or by the end of this legislative period,” he said. “But I promise, if we band together we can restore the American dream for all Californians.”
Cheers and shouts of encouragement from the crowd indicated support of Moore’s views.
Among the crowd was Janice Carol, a member of Service Employees International Union Local 721, who joined the march on behalf of her granddaughter and the students of California.
“Everyone has the right to work. Everyone has the right to raise their children, send them to college, and we the taxpayers have to let the legislators know that,” she said.
“Young people need to start a movement now, to make sure your future is what you want it to be, and don’t let those old guys, so-called lawmakers, plan anything for you that’s not appropriate,” Carol continued. “Take over!”