Berkeley joins 600 cities across the globe in March for Science rally

Julian Kilchling/Staff

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A March for Science rally took place on Sproul Plaza during Cal Day, drawing in a crowd of hundreds of scientists, researchers, students and community members in support of scientific facts and research.

The rally was organized entirely by UC Berkeley graduate students, making this demonstration a unique addition to similar marches taking place in San Francisco and in more than 600 cities globally. The speakers at the Berkeley march included graduate students, professors, researchers and activists from a diverse array of fields. Crowds for the event extended from the Mario Savio Steps on Sproul Plaza to the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union and Golden Bear Cafe.

The March for Science rally coincided with Earth Day, and was a reaction to President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget cuts to federal agencies that help fund scientific research.

Rachel Thayer, a campus doctoral candidate in evolutionary genetics, began the rally with a speech and said to the crowd that in order to have a healthy earth, everyone needs to come together and offer continued support for science. She encouraged the protesters to keep marching even after the rally ended.

Participants held signs they brought or those provided by volunteers like Rachel Hager, who said she was handing out flyers and trying to get volunteers for science activism. The signs had messages such as, “Make America smart again,” “Evidence based policy, not policy based evidence” and “Good jobs, green jobs.”

“Rigorous pursuit of truth belongs to us all,” said particle physics graduate student Vetri Velan to the crowd. “Science brings us (a) deeper understanding of ourselves and the world we live in (it’s) not dependent on a profit margin.”

Nipam Patel, a campus professor in integrative biology, said he was always fascinated by the world and spoke of the importance of scientists engaging with the public as well as volunteering time to convey the value of knowledge, facts and research.

Ben Bonnet, an East Bay physician, brought his daughter to the march, where he said it was great to see people coming together at a time when facts seem to be disappearing.

Other speakers included molecular and cellular biology graduate students Erika Anderson and Fernando Rodriguez Pérez, as well as environmental science, policy and management graduate student Frances Roberts-Gregory. The graduate students spoke of the importance of public funding, the inclusivity of science, and the protection of rural, suburban and urban environments.

After the series of speakers, participants marched from Sproul Plaza through Downtown Berkeley. During the marches, the crowd chanted, “Stand up for science” and “I don’t believe in evolution, I accept it based on facts,” among others. The march culminated at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, where participants were joined by performance group Occupella, who sang about science and the environment.

Barr Everhart, a former fireman from Brentwood, said science helped his son when he needed a heart transplant.

“Science rocks,” Everhart said.

Contact Ani Vahradyan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anivahrad.