It’s almost springtime here in Sacramento, and nothing says spring quite like a staged protest at the State Capitol. At 10 a.m. this morning, thousands of students, parents, union workers, and professional protesters converged on the lawns and surrounding blocks of the Capitol building to vent their frustrations about the “broken system”.
Today’s protests, otherwise known as “Occupy the Capitol”, came with the stated intent of pushing back against the rising cost of higher education and calling on legislators to increase funding for California’s struggling public colleges and universities. In reality, slogans found on signs and banners were all across the board much like the protesters themselves. Some called for increased taxes on the rich to fund education, while others proudly waved signs debunking capitalism and war in the Middle East.
The rally put on by the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, California State Student Association and the University of California Student Association was loosely organized at best, and often had to contend with all the other factions involved. It’s tough to pinpoint a central message much less an actual list of demands when so many complaints and frustrations intermingle.
Protesters gathered around the west steps of the Capitol were addressed by top Democratic leaders from both houses. These same lawmakers negotiated and voted for the higher education cuts in recent years.
Both Assembly Speaker John Perez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg experienced some difficulty in delivering their speeches as they were quickly drowned out by chants of “Show us! Show us!” from the crowd. Steinberg responded with calm understanding and a promise to put more money into higher education with a majority-vote budget as quickly as possible.
Both he and the Speaker also took this opportunity to tout Speaker Perez’s “Middle Class Scholarship” and Steinberg’s own bill aimed at lowering the cost of textbooks as a step in the right direction.
Republican legislators were noticeably absent at the rally, but Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff took to his twitter to share the following:
Leg Democrats line up to address students at Capitol rally, but Dems cut university funding over welfare. bittyurl.in/3V95XU
— Bob Huff (@bobhuff99) March 5, 2012
Micah Grant, a spokesperson and communications strategist for the California Republican Party seems to agree. “The student protesters are demonstrating against Democrat education policy. Republicans introduced a plan last year to protect education without raising taxes, and the Democrats rejected it. This is just more fallout from the Democrats’ majority budget,” stated Grant.
For those that made it through the never ending lines to enter the Capitol Rotunda, the protests are now in its second phase “occupation” – as in they don’t intend to leave by 6 p.m. when the Capitol typically closes its doors to the public. No word yet on whether or not the lucky group that made it in has a finalized list of demands.