Under the Capitol dome with Occupy protesters
Febreze and a millionaire’s tax. Potty breaks and the absolution of student debt. Pizza, soda and a revision of Proposition 13. When college students occupy the Capitol for a day, these are the type of demands you get: visionary, dormitory.
UC Davis student Dave Buscho stood and watched the scene underneath the rotunda dome this past Monday afternoon. The mechanical-engineering senior was an early adopter to the UC occupy movement, one of the dozen who received Officer John Pike’s pepper spray last November. He praised Monday’s Occupy the Capitol action for both focusing Occupy efforts on legislators and also bolstering the students’ intra-campus network.
“It’s brought a lot of people from around the state together, face to face, which I think is really cool,” Buscho said. “I think that’s actually going to be the really important, long-term benefit from today.”
Indeed, the day-long action, which began with a noisy, thousands-strong march from Southside Park to the Capitol’s west steps, shook the halls of power, even if the 68 protesters that stayed past curfew ended up going to jail without concessions from the Legislature. Or a slice of Round Table.
Stern-faced California Highway Patrol officers in round-brimmed campaign hats cordoned off the rotunda’s four entrances early in the day. They blocked activists from using the toilets and looked on for hours as some 200 students relayed echo-drenched “mic check” messages to hundreds more hunkered down in the Capitol hallways. It reeked of unrest; you can’t spell rebellion without B.O.
Students filled out ballots to rank their top-five demands for the state Legislature. At 5:30 p.m., a tall, lanky brunette with curly hair, who was later arrested, yelled the winners out loud:
1. Pass a millionaire’s tax.
2. Cancel all student debt.
3. Democratize the CSU and UC regent boards.
4. Fully fund all education in California.
5. Amend Proposition 13.
Democrats in the Capitol halls joked about requests to modify Prop. 13 or the two-thirds majority vote on the budget—“If they only knew”—and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom even snuck into the rotunda just after 3 p.m. He sat in a circle with protesters and listened to complaints. Some engaged in serious dialogue. Others begged him to make CHP let them use the restrooms.
Most chanted “Gavin go home! Gavin go home!”
“What frustrates me is people say no one listens, so I come in to listen, and they tell me to go away,” Newsom told SN&R, laughing.
Some morning activists, who snacked on the Capitol lawn outside during the afternoon, even tried to sneak pizza and drinks in to the occupiers, to no avail.
By closing time at 6 p.m., CHP and city police far outnumbered occupiers. Some 80 law-enforcement vehicles blocked lanes of traffic on N Street. Dozens more dotted the neighborhood. Hundreds of riot-gear clad police, some five rows deep, held ground in front of the building’s west steps. More CHP roamed the halls inside. And a really annoying whirlybird cut through the downtown sky well past 9 p.m. Even the media—local, state and national—outnumbered protesters at the day’s end.
Occupy deadline. (Nick Miller)