‘Jerry Brown don’t let us down’

Thousands of students from across the state brave the elements to protest education cuts

The rain-soaked cardboard sign at least kept Abdel Fane somewhat dry. The student from Merritt College in Oakland held a message over his head: “We demand justice.”

Fane was one of thousands of students, faculty, education administrators and other supporters who rallied against education budget cuts at this past Monday’s March in March 2011 rally at the Capitol’s west steps. Participants began on Front Street and advanced down Capitol Mall in the rain. A chant of “Students, united, will never be divided” cried out from other protesters already waiting at the Capitol.

Umbrellas crowded the steps as student leaders, education staff and politicians rallied the masses from behind a microphone. Chants included “No more cuts,” “Let people vote” and “we are the future,” among many others. Though spirited, the rally was peaceful as leaders often reminded the crowd to act in a positive way.

Joan Berezin, a history instructor at Berkeley City College, helped organize students for the march. “We think education is a right and not a privilege,” Berezin said. “They are eviscerating the public education system in California, and we’re not going to accept it. … Basically, [the state is] slamming the door on working people being able to get an education.”

Those attending the rally came from throughout California. The annual rally focused this year on Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget cuts, which would eliminate $1.4 billion in higher-education dollars, including $400 million from the 112 state community colleges, $500 million from 23 CSU campuses and $500 million from 10 UC campuses.

Hundreds of unique signs were on display at the rally, including, “Jerry Brown don’t let us down” and “$1 billion in cuts to education, $4 billion in corporate handouts.”

Lauren Johnson-Williams, a student at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, woke up at 5:30 a.m. to take a bus with fellow students to attend the event. The engineering student said she was rallied by leaders at her community college.

“I literally cannot get a job making enough to pay rent,” she said. “I am living at home until I finish my engineering degree. …

“I can’t even get a job at McDonald’s. I don’t know what I am supposed to do if I don’t have a community college to fall back on.”