VALLEJO – The second day of the “99 Mile March for Education and Social Justice” toward Sacramento started off with the same energy that it had on Thursday and was buoyed by visits from the mayor of Richmond and several UC Berkeley faculty members.
However, the group of marchers — who operate on the same democratic process as Occupy encampments — also ran into its first disagreement, causing the group to temporarily split.
Before the marchers left St. Mark’s Church Friday morning, they were sent off by Richmond residents.
Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin stopped by to thank the group for its efforts.
McLaughlin said even though Richmond is a progressive city, it cannot do any more for its schools without more state funding.
Additionally, 15 UC Berkeley faculty members met the marchers on Friday.
The group of about 45 marchers — composed largely of students from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University as well as members of Occupy San Francisco — walked about seven and a half miles before it was met by the faculty at about 1 p.m.
Wendy Brown and Richard Walker, co-chair and vice-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association, organized the faculty members, who came from departments across the campus.
“A couple dozen faculty members have been active (in fighting budget cuts) the past few years, so we wanted to do something to support the march,” Walker said as Brown helped serve vegetarian chili to the marchers.
Anant Sahai, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, said he graduated from the campus in 1994 and as such felt compelled to march.
“When I was in school, everyone knew Berkeley was the best, and it still is, but the state is threatening to make it not be the best,” Sahai said.
Sahai recognized that faculty from his department are usually not as active in protests as humanities faculty, but said that they still support the protesters.
Celeste Langan, a UC Berkeley English professor who was arrested Nov. 9, had wanted to organize an open university march in 2009 but could not because of responsibilities. Consequently, she relished the opportunity to march.
Langan said she is supposed to be working on an essay for the Modern Language Association on the Occupy movement and its relation to the etymology of the word “occupation.”
UC Berkeley freshman and marcher Maggie Hardy said she thinks the faculty’s support legitimizes the protest.
“It shows that this isn’t just a phase we students are going through,” Hardy said. “There’s a real demand for education that the academic community supports.”
After marching across the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge into Vallejo — the group’s final destination for Friday — the march stopped around 7:30 p.m. due to a disagreement about how to proceed.
The destination — Rehoboth World Outreach Center — was at least five miles away, and some marchers wanted to use the supply vans and some help from a sympathetic Vallejo resident to shuttle over. Others wanted to keep marching.
The group deliberated and eventually split. The half that went ahead brought pizza back for the marchers, who had a mile and a half left.
The marchers sprinted once Rehoboth was in sight and got in for the night around 8:40 p.m.
Christopher Yee covers Berkeley communities.
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