“Hey hey! Ho ho! Napolitano has got to go,” students cried out at the “No to Napolitano, Yes to Worker’s Demands” rally to call for the resignation of UC President Janet Napolitano.
Despite the lack of sunshine yesterday afternoon, the Autonomous Students collective hosted the rally, which began at Quarry Plaza, made its way to McHenry and disbanded at Kerr Hall. At each location, student organizers informed the crowd of their varied purposes and directed their chants through the megaphone.
A crowd of around 40 gathered after being notified through a Facebook event. The post made the various reasons behind the rally clear, all of which fell under the broader issue of a claimed covert racism present within the UC. Besides calling for the resignation of Napolitano, ralliers called for support for next week’s AFSCME strike and recognition of Trayvon Martin’s death, as yesterday marked two years since his shooting by George Zimmerman.
“We’re fighting against racism as well as the privatization of the UC,” said third-year Ben Mabie, who helped coordinate the rally. “If you look at what’s happening to workers here, you see intensified pressure from the UC, demanding more and more out of its workers and paying them less and less in various forms — be it wages, pensions or amount of hours they’re able to get.”
Autonomous Students is a collective of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as several service workers on campus. The group is student-organized and was founded last year after Napolitano’s appointment as UC President.
Fully aware that on-campus service workers continue to struggle in advancing contract negotiations, third-year transfer student Maga Miranda stressed the importance of fighting for them even in rainy weather.
“Student movements are among the most powerful forces in our society for social change because students [can be] incredibly well-informed,” Miranda said. “Students have been able to make really incredible coalitions with workers and educators on our campus. In this beautiful way, there has been this incredible solidarity across different interests.”
Besides last quarter’s AFSCME strike in November, yesterday’s rally was greatly inspired by UC Berkeley’s protest on Feb. 13 against the UC President. Although yesterday’s rally did not garner the number of people expected largely due to the weather, it carried on as a precursor to next week’s anticipated five-day AFSCME strike.
“Initially, we were going to have a big rally and a day of direct action, but the rain postponed it to next Wednesday,” said first-year Paloma Connolly. “Today is a day to escalate the actions Berkeley had two weeks ago. They called for statewide action and we’re responding to that call.”