“Spank the banks,” “Refund Education,” “We are the 99 percent.” The signs held by those present at yesterday’s actions reflected the tide of diversification and unification now characterizing actions. The Nov. 9 rally, originally spearheaded by the organization ReFund California Education, while largely focused on the issue of decreased funding to public education, also addressed issues the Occupy Wall Street actions have attempted to grapple with: opposing corporate greed and targeting big banks like Wells Fargo.
The rally exemplified the unification of the vast array of causes. The destinations for the march included UC Santa Cruz, Wells Fargo and the site of Occupy Santa Cruz. The rally began in Quarry Plaza, with numerous speakers addressing both UC President Mark Yudof’s proposed four-year 81 percent tuition increase and calling for support of the occupy movement, then proceeded down Hagar Drive to the base of campus and on to the downtown Santa Cruz clock tower, where it joined with a coalition of students and teachers gathered in support of the K-12 education system. The march then continued to the nearby Wells Fargo bank and concluded with an assembly on the steps of the courthouse where the Occupy Santa Cruz home base has been located for weeks.
“It is so exciting the student struggle is part of this larger international movement — we’re making connections between struggling people,” politics professor Megan Thompson said. “I am excited to unite at the clock tower where we will meet with K-12 organizers for a moment of community solidarity. There are different locations and different objectives, but a lot of continuity.”
Other ReFund California actions sprung up at institutions in California. At the UC Berkeley campus, the action attracted hundreds to Sproul Plaza. At least seven individuals were arrested. ReFund California is also calling for the action to carry over to the regents meeting on Nov. 16.
“That’s why we are mobilizing Nov. 9 and Nov. 16, to deliver a message to the 50 corporate elite who sit on the boards of California’s colleges and universities: We already paid!” reads ReFund California’s website. “It’s time to make Wall Street corporations and the wealthy pay to refund education!”
UAW Local 2865 has arranged bus transportation to the meeting in San Francisco. Seven buses have been slated for transport from Santa Cruz. Individuals can sign up for space on these buses via the ReFund California website.
In Quarry Plaza, the crowd of 500 that had gathered was interspersed with faculty, librarians, student activists, graduate students, TAs, union workers, undergraduate students, among others.
The crowd rallied around various speakers addressing the tuition hike proposed by Yudof — for four consecutive years at a 16 percent compounded increase — class and ethnic struggles, the unequal distribution of wealth, and the problem of big banks.
Chants reflecting the diversity of issues being addressed, including “The people united will never be defeated,” “Ain’t no power like the power of a student, because the power of a student don’t stop,” and “Si se puede” echoed in the plaza.
The crowd then began the trek down Hagar to the base of campus, with police present to stop traffic on the roadway.
“Our administrative efforts today mostly involved our transportation staff and our police, whose focus was on the safety of the people during the march through campus that followed the rally,” university spokesperson Jim Burns said in an email. “Toward that end, we tried hard to provide up-to-date information to all members of the campus community about any transportation issues related to the protest.”
Among those who marched to the base of campus was Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway. Galloway expressed her support of the unification of the movements.
“You cannot just say, ‘well, I put that money here, and solved that problem,” Galloway said. “It is all so intertwined.”
Students remained at the entrance to campus for approximately 45 minutes, blocking the intersection of Bay and High. On the lawn in front of the University of California, Santa Cruz sign at the base of campus, students were giving out trail mix and bagels. The march continued down Bay Street, taking up both lanes of traffic on each side and the roadway on Mission.
The crowd meandered through cars along Mission Street, which sees 50,000 cars pass each day. Feelings about the protest varied among those stopped on the roadway. The manager of the Mission Street Valero gas station did not support the activity, saying, as she gestured to the march, “No wonder why they call them slugs.” Similarly, Brett Bulich, a Scott Fetzer company employee, expressed disdain for the marchers. Bulich and two others displayed a small sign on the windshield of their van reading “get a real job,” and engaged in an argument with supporters of the march.
Simultaneously, children from the middle school lined the fence encouraging marchers, an act met with an eruption of cheers. Other drivers displayed support by honking along with the chants.
The march then reached the downtown clock tower, and met with the K-12 contingent. An elementary school teacher employed in the Pajaro Valley school district said schools have been defunded, and public education has been torn apart by neglect.
“We do our best, but our students cannot afford higher education,” she said.
The meeting in front of the clock tower moved to the steps of the post office, where members of the Brown Beret, Raging Grannies, graduate students and union representatives addressed the crowd.
“We need education on our terms, not on the regents’,” said Jenn Laskin, a teacher in the Pajaro Valley School District who has also been a member of the Brown Berets. “It is up to laborers and allies to take control.”
After the speeches on the steps of the post office, the march continued to the Wells Fargo, where the building was encircled and a “people’s mic” spread a speech through the line of individuals. The speaker explained why the protest had gathered in opposition to Wells Fargo, citing that Wells Fargo is the largest private loan lender to UC Santa Cruz students.
“Wells Fargo has paid less than 0 percent corporate taxes and received 1.5 billion in bailout. That is our money, and we want it back” was heard echoing through the crowd.
A supporter of the movement climbed atop an overhang at the entrance to the Wells Fargo and draped a sign reading “refund education.”
The 150 people then moved to the steps of the courthouse to continue discourse on education and economics.