The campuswide day of action in support of affordable higher education and the Occupy movement has grown throughout the day to over a thousand students at its peak in the early afternoon, from teach-outs in the morning to a noontime rally that was attended by about 1,000 people.
The protest activities thus far have mirrored past protests with teach-outs and a rally on Sproul Plaza, but in addition to a focus on state budget cuts and the affordability of higher education, the protest has strongly identified with the national Occupy movement and included a march to Bank of America on Telegraph Avenue.
Circles of classes — mostly discussion sections run by graduate student instructors — dotted various locations on campus, including Sproul Plaza, from around 8:30 a.m. until the noon rally on the steps of the plaza.
Sarah Anne Minkin, graduate student instructor in the UC Berkeley Department of Sociology, said she decided to participate in the teach-out with her Introduction to Sociology discussion because of its relevance to her lesson’s subject matter — social inequalities.
“I think fighting for public education is very important — public education is our right,” Minkin said. “I think that it’s important to be a part of this movement for me, as a human being, it’s important, and as a teacher it’s important for the students to get to be a part of it as well.”
Student organizer and UC Berkeley junior Marco Amaral predicted that the noon rally would have a high attendance bolstered by demonstrators from Occupy Oakland. Some protesters from Oakland began to arrive at the campus around 11 a.m. in anticipation of the rally.
“I love seeing all the movements working together in solidarity because it really is the same issues everywhere,” said Sara Charanne, an Occupy Oakland demonstrator who said she expected thousands at the noon rally.
The noon rally — whose attendees included the UPTE-CWA 9119 union, Raza and members of the Against Cuts organization among others — featured a variety of speakers, from a satirical UC regent to ASUC External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman.
Freeman urged students to work with the ASUC to repeal Proposition 13 to reform property taxes, support a progressive tax measure and lobby state legislators in Sacramento.
“This is a conversation that we need to continue, and this is a conversation that will continue,” he said.
The protesters then marched down Telegraph Avenue to Bank of America chanting slogans such as “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out” before marching down Durant Avenue back to Sproul Plaza for a general assembly around 1:30 p.m. to plan for an encampment this evening, despite warnings from administrators that doing so would violate the campus code of conduct.