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Classes Disrupted As Bay Area College Students, Occupy Movement Team Up

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An Occupy Education march in Berkeley (CBS)

An Occupy Education march in Berkeley (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – College students all over the Bay Area and across the nation were partnering with the Occupy movement Thursday in a day of action against higher tuition costs.

San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza hosted a gathering of several hundred protesters calling on California to better fund education and reduce student debt.

“Tax the rich,” the crowd chanted again and again, led by speakers on a platform strung with a banner advocating a “Millionaire’s Tax” ballot initiative that would raise taxes on California’s wealthiest citizens.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

The rally was part of the larger National Day of Action to Defend the Right to Education held throughout the country Thursday, as several groups from around San Francisco converged for the day-concluding event.

Thursday’s protests are the latest in a series of demonstrations over the lack of funding for public education in the state, which has resulted in dramatic fee increases for public universities in recent years.

Alex Schmaus, a student in City College of San Francisco and a participant in “Occupy CCSF,” told the crowd that he had accumulated $27,000 in debt as a student at SFSU but didn’t earn a degree, and now collection agencies were threatening to garnish his paychecks.

Schmaus drew connections between the campaign for better funding for higher education and some of the larger goals of the Occupy movement, including more access to housing and sending less people to prisons.

Students from Mission High School in San Francisco were also invited onto the stage to speak, wondering what opportunities would be available if they were priced out of being able to attend college, and how they could give back to the world without access to an education.

“The way things are going we’re going to have only private universities, we’re not going to have public universities,” Terence Yancey, 26, a philosophy major at San Francisco State University told the crowd.

Yancey said that he had come over with a larger group from SFSU, which held a rally and march earlier Thursday afternoon. But part of his group had split off to go to Oakland, where some protesters were gearing up for a four-day march to Sacramento.

Called the “99 Mile March,” the demonstrators plan to make stops in San Pablo, Vallejo, Vacaville and Davis before arriving in Sacramento Monday morning for a massive convergence planned at the state Capitol.

Yancey said he would be joining the march on its second day in San Pablo, and while a core group would be marching all the way from Oakland to Sacramento, others would join along the way.

KCBS’ Bob Butler Reports:

Another group came to Civic Center Plaza from the nearby California State Office Building at 455 Golden Gate Ave. after having a teach-in there Thursday afternoon.

But about a dozen remained behind to continue occupying the state building even as the office workers went home for the day.

Around 6:30 p.m. that contingent of occupiers were escorted out of the building by officers and most appeared to be cited and released.

UC Santa Cruz protest, Occupy

Student protesters demonstrate outside the UC Santa Cruz campus during an Occupy Day of Action, March 1, 2012. (CSS)

Earlier on Thursday, protesters at the University of California at Santa Cruz managed to significantly disrupt campus operations, blocking staff and faculty from getting to work and causing class cancellations, a university spokesman said.

Protesters gathered early Thursday morning at each of the campus’ two entrances to block cars from getting through, UC Santa Cruz spokesman Jim Burns said.

“There are enough people in each of those entrances to prevent cars from entering,” Burns said. “Once we recognized this was going to happen as advertised, we communicated to our own people not to bring cars to campus; they’re not going to be able to.”

Burns said Thursday morning that 200 or 300 people were participating in the protests, standing outside in the cold rain.

At the University of California at Berkeley, protesters held their own open university Thursday morning, and began gathering outside California Hall at 8 a.m.

Protesters had planned to march to Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza to join an evening rally there at the site of the former Occupy Oakland camp.

At California State University Monterey Bay, protesters held an “Occupy Education” rally at noon followed by a march.

Rallies and marches were also held at CSU East Bay in Hayward, San Jose State University, Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College.

Protesters from throughout the state will hold a larger, unified demonstration on Monday in Sacramento.

The “Occupy Education” rally will begin at 10 a.m. followed by a march to the state Capitol building. The daylong event will also feature nonviolent direct action training and another rally at the Capitol that evening.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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