Day of Action started on UC campuses, but it's grown to encompass wider calls to fund public education and services
"There's a growing movement for progressive taxation and budget reform instead of draconian cuts."
Taiz, who teaches history at Cal State Los Angeles, described March 4 as an opportunity to fill a void in leadership. "Historically, in these moments where ordinary people step up to the plate, you end up leading the leaders," she said. "We are kind of shocked, but in truth, we do know what has to be done." Quality education isn't just important for young people, but for society as a whole, she argued. "I am a baby boomer, and if the folks coming up behind me don't have really, really good jobs, I'm going to be eating dog food. Because those are the people who pay Social Security and pay the taxes."
In the week preceding March 4, teachers and students throughout the Bay Area were in a frenzy of preparation.
Carlos Baron, a theater professor at SF State, was wondering whether the grand procession of papier-mâché puppets his theater students will unveil on the March 4 Day of Action should take a V-shape or some other form. "The main puppet is the Draculator," explained Baron, a Chilean who directed plays in the Salvador Allende era before he began teaching at SF State in 1978. "It's a cross between the Terminator-Governor and Dracula. But also it doubles as a banker and a general."
When asked how funding cutbacks affect students, Baron didn't hesitate. "It impedes the creation of a positive vision for themselves and this society," he said. It stunts "the development of the imagination," he added. "We are trained as individuals to accept our failure and our smallness because we're familiar with it. They don't want an educated population, a sensitive population, a dreaming population. Would we select Schwarzenegger?"
Nicole Abreu Shepard, a first-grade teacher at Buena Vista Elementary in San Francisco's Mission District, was collecting permission slips from parents to take her students to a rally and march down 24th Street. "The entire school is walking out," Abreu Shepherd said. Buena Vista's art program exists solely because parents volunteer their time, she explained. More than half the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and many incoming kindergarteners or preschoolers are new to the English language. Now there are proposals on the table to increase kindergarten class sizes to 25 or possibly even 30 students. "It's sort of tying their hands behind their back and asking them to teach on one foot," she noted, and worried about the eventual result. "It's going to be harder and harder to keep parents who could afford private school in a public school system."
Meanwhile, at the UC Berkeley campus, Krystof Cantor was sitting behind a table heaped with piles of radical literature bearing titles such as "After the Fall: Communiques from an Occupied California." Cantor, who earned his PhD in vision science in 2005, was joining student organizers in making one last push to drum up student interest in March 4 events at a multi-faceted event called "Rolling University." Late on the evening of Feb. 26, a dance party on the Berkeley campus morphed into a street riot -- replete with ignited Dumpsters -- in downtown Berkeley. The incident attracted media attention and drew public criticism from administrative officials.
The radicalized student movement that has erupted on the UC Berkeley campus is "very much about seizing power," Cantor told the Guardian several days before. "It's been disruptive, it's been militant, and it's been creative.