This past Thursday, there were protests all over California – in elementary schools, middle schools and high schools, in community colleges, CSUs and the UCs. Students, faculty and staff held meetings, rallies, speak outs, picket lines and teach-ins against the budget cuts to education. Some people marched in protest and some held rallies. The biggest and most important protest was in San Francisco at 5pm in Civic Center Plaza.
The San Francisco protest was organized by major education unions, including teachers, faculty and staff and students and the SF Labor Council. It brought more than 12,000 people together. There were kindergarteners and grandparents, high school and college students, parents and teachers and college instructors. It was a first in California – all levels of education in the same place at the same time with the same message.
There were also workers from many unions and workplaces who joined in. It was a wonderful gathering of people of all ages and ethnicities standing together. People not only addressed the budget cuts to education, but also the layoffs, the foreclosures, the increasing homelessness, poverty and hunger that are impacting so many. It was a gathering of ordinary people, many who had never come to a demonstration before. People had decided to break their isolation and not to remain invisible. They came together in public to make their anger seen and heard. People were there to reaffirm their commitment to education and a future for all the young people of the state.
The rally was addressed by students, teachers, staff members, parents, and union leaders. There was entertainment from singers and rappers who sang and spoke against the budget cuts. The rock band from Hayward, “The Angry, Tired Teachers” filled the night air with “No Cuts” music. No politicians spoke. This was not their day. The rally made it clear that on March 4 what the politicians needed to do was listen.
The message was shared by all – “No Cuts To Education”. “No More Cuts To Pubic Services.” We have stood by too long waiting for this crisis to turn around, for the politicians to find a solution. But month after month, year after year, the cuts are deepening. Now we have no choice. The educational system is on the brink of disaster.
The message was clear. There is plenty of money in California, the 9th largest economy in the world. It is time that money was used to provide the hardworking people of this state what they deserve – quality education and efficient services, paid for by our taxes.
The speakers at the rally also said that of course one day of demonstrations is not enough to turn the cuts around. Everyone understood this is just a first step. But it is nonetheless an important first step. We have to keep organizing and involving more and more of our family, friends, co-workers, classmates and others in this people’s movement.
There are many consequences of this economic crisis that make all of us unhappy and angry. But on March 4, in San Francisco, along with the anger and discontent, there was also a strong feeling of a job well done, and a feeling of celebration shared with all the other people who had turned out. And in cities and towns across the state, where people organized and stood together for a collective future, it was a true celebration of people’s power, across the state.