Tuesday, August 20

Protesters swarm UCLA campus in National Day of Action

UCLA community unites to protest budget cuts, lack of diversity and recent events of racism at UCs


Shoshee Jau / Daily Bruin

Hundreds of feet stamped on the ground in unison, as chants of “Education should be free ““ no cuts, no fees” rose in the air and people flooded into the hallway.

Members of the UCLA community gathered in Murphy Hall to advocate for better public universities.

They also expressed concern over budget cuts and racially charged events that recently transpired at University of California campuses.

To defend public education in California, about 300 students, campus staff and union workers rallied around campus, participating in the statewide March 4 National Day of Action.

The Day of Action originally began with California universities, and quickly spread to K-12 schools and other colleges across the nation.

At UCLA, students gathered in Bruin Plaza around noon, listening to speakers and chanting slogans. Many students shared their personal struggles with the November fee hikes passed by the UC Board of Regents, from juggling multiple jobs to taking out loans.

“I almost had to drop out because of budget cuts, but I found an apartment for $300 per month,” said Erienne Overli, a second-year political science student.

Campus employees, librarians, union workers and others showed their support, speaking out against the fee increases passed in November and the incidents of racism that have occurred at other UC campuses.

“It’s not fair that student workers have to bear the burden of budget cuts,” said Jorge Cabrera, vice president of United Auto Workers local 2865. “Students are being forced to decide whether to continue school and work more, take out loans or drop out.”

Simultaneously, a group of MEChA de UCLA members and other students occupied the top of Janss steps, donning white face paint and holding posters urging the approval of the DREAM Act.

The white and black paint represented death, but the marching showed that students are “alive and united,” said Adrian Del Rio, a fourth-year Chicana and Chicano studies student.

The crowd marched past the law school and sat at the intersection of Charles E. Young Drive North and Wyton Drive, blocking traffic.

The protesters from Bruin Plaza held a separate march through campus, marching and chanting as they made their way to Murphy Hall. At 1 p.m., people packed the hallway outside Chancellor Gene Block’s office. However, they were prevented from entering by university police officers stationed in front of the door and the nearby stairwell.

Police officers did not move or approach the crowd, but remained in front of the chancellor’s office as the demonstrators chanted through a bullhorn and shouted their demands, which included smaller class sizes, a reversal of the 32 percent fee hike and greater transparency in the administration.

UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton said representatives of the chancellor accepted a list of demands from students, but said he could not comment about potential changes.

“I think that, like students, UCLA campus leaders are concerned about the rising cost of education,” Hampton said. “We are committed … to finding cost savings and preserving the high quality of education.”

After two and a half hours of chanting and sitting, protesters heard from Vice Chancellor Janina Montero, who said Block was not going to come out and meet with them.

At this point, the protester count had dwindled from 300 to 60. Many students lost interest, instead leaving for a teach-in at Royce Quad or attending an afternoon rally in Bruin Plaza.

“Your TAs stand with you,” said Caitlin Patler, president of the Social Sciences Graduate Students Council, during the teach-in. “We appreciate this time we spend with you, but with budget cuts, we can’t do that.”

The low-key atmosphere facilitated peaceful events, and Hampton said there were no reports of force by students or police.

“It’s been a peaceful demonstration and rally,” Hampton said, referring to the events in both Bruin Plaza and Murphy Hall. “(Force) is reserved for situations where public safety is threatened.”

Ultimately, students felt that their efforts were successful in their main objective of facilitating unity and raising awareness, said Alejandra Cruz, a third-year law student who organized the event through UCLA Fights Back.

“I’m disappointed the chancellor didn’t show up,” she said. “But the goal was to build solidarity and collective power, and I’m impressed by the level of understanding on how to build a movement.”

With reports from Sonali Kohli and Marcus Torrey, Bruin contributors.

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