Beginning March 1, protesters in support of Occupy Education California plan to embark on a “99 Mile March for Education and Social Justice” to the capitol building in Sacramento, after holding rallies at UC Berkeley.
About 25 people — many of them students — met at an office on Allston Way Saturday evening to discuss plans for the upcoming demonstrations in support of public education, which will involve a four-day trek from Berkeley to Sacramento that already included 88 participants as of the meeting.
The plans for mass protest follow widespread criticism over campus police’s use of batons at the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal protest.
Last Tuesday, campus officials announced the creation of a Protest Response Team charged with planning for future protests and stressing effective communication between protesters and faculty members. The announcement — which came on the heels of occupations in the campus anthropology library and the steps outside of Doe Library — stated that police engagement with protesters will only be authorized by an on-site senior administrator to “minimize the prospect of physical harm.”
The March 1 protest is planned to begin with teach-outs across the campus starting at 8 a.m., with a rally on Sproul Plaza at noon featuring different speakers who are not yet finalized, according to campus graduate student Amanda Armstrong.
At 12:45 p.m., protesters plan to march to Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland and begin the march to the Capitol for the March 5 day of action.
“It’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be a challenge, but that’s part of the beauty of what we’re going to do,” said Beezer de Martelly, a campus graduate student and one of the organizers of the march.
Participants in the march plan to meet at 2 p.m. in the plaza and begin their march an hour later, making a stop at Berkeley High School for a rally supporting the Berkeley Federation of Teachers.
“We’ll have rallies every day,” said Kevin Faircloth, a San Francisco State University senior and one of the organizers of the march. “Rallies in the morning for sure, to make sure people’s spirits are up before we get going — that’s big.”
The first night — following a four hour march — will bring protesters to either Richmond or San Pablo, where they plan to spend the night at either St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Richmond or Contra Costa College. Protesters intend to stay in either Benicia or Vallejo on the second night after a five to seven hour march, depending on where the marchers get permission to stay.
On day three, Faircloth and de Martelly have planned for protesters to split up into two groups to cover the next 30-mile stretch. The first group will begin marching at 6 a.m. to Solano Community College and the second group — which will be bused to the college — is planned to march the second half to Vacaville.
On the fourth day, described by de Martelly as “the toughest day,” demonstrators plan to tackle a 23-mile route to UC Davis, where they will meet up with Occupy Davis protesters and spend the night on the campus quad.
Protesters intend to arrive at the capitol via bus at 10 a.m. March 5, where they plan to determine whether or not to occupy the Capitol building, de Martelly said.
“Six p.m. is when the Capitol building closes and that’s a crucial time,” de Martelly said. “It’s an important decision time for us, and everyone with us will be a part of that decision. We’ll need to decide then what to do from there.”
Geena Cova covers academics and administration.