'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, March 05, 2012

An #M5 Occupy Education Report 

UPDATE 4: In relation to my post last Thursday, I haven't been able to find any posts or dairies at firedoglake about the Occupy Education actions that took place in California and New York yesterday. The total number of occupiers arrested in Sacramento yesterday was 76.

UPDATE 3: 72 arrests reported at the state capital last night after the capital building closed at 6pm. Prior the arrests, students conducted a general assembly and thereafter issued a set of demands for the improvement of the higher education system:

1) Pass the Millionaire Tax

2) Cancel all student debt

3) Democratize the UC Board of Regents and the CSU Board of Directors and Trustees

4) Fully fund all education

5) Amend Prop 13 to move to a split roll tax, commercial vs residential

UPDATE 2: Livestream of the south steps of the state capital at 5:05pm here.

UPDATE 1: Apparently, there was an attempted banner drop inside the capital rotunda at around 3:30pm. Three people were reportedly arrested, with hundreds chanting Let them go! Riot police are disembarking outside my office nearby and gathering to enter the building.

INITIAL POST: I stepped out for lunch to check out one of Occupy Education rallies across the street today. For those of you who are unaware, the purpose of the rallies and other protests at the state capital in Sacramento today is to highlight the skyrocketing cost of public education in California and the underlying privatization of the system. My impression is that the number of protesters was smaller than anticipated, say, in the 2500 to 3000 range.

I walked around the periphery of the capital grounds about an hour after the earlier, noon, traditional rally on the west steps of the capital, where the usual Democratic Party apparatchiks, like Speaker Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez, were scheduled to speak in support of the necessity for more money for education, even though they have sheparded several budgets through the legislative process that cut funding for it. A student organization sponsored it, calling it a Fund Our Future rally. As you might have guessed, I wasn't very motivated to attend, although the probable emphasis upon the passage of a tax increase initiative in the fall is a worthwhile, if inadequate, step. The rally was centered around a dubious notion promoted by UC chancellors and regents during acrimonious protests last fall, namely that the students need to stop protesting them and should direct their hostility towards the legislature instead, allowing them to proceed with an ongoing, creeping privatization of the system that has been taking place since the late 1980s.

But the more significant revelation was the smaller than expected turnout. It is a reflection, I believe, of the political demoralization that has taken hold in the aftermath of the suppression of Occupy movement. It may also be a reflection of displeasure with efforts to distance the Fund Our Future event from a rally, with possible subsequent direct actions, later today. At 5:30pm, there will be another rally sponsored by Refund California and Occupy Education California, through a permit provided by the Sacramento Central Labor Council. The student organizations involved with Fund Our Future openly distinguished their rally from this one, with some even criticizing Refund California and Occupy Education California for trying to take over our event. The nerve of those people! Don't they know that any political expression at the capital on the left should be subject to a pre-clearance procedure overseen by the Young Democrats?

I'd like to say that I am hopeful that there will be a larger than expected turnout for this late afternoon rally, a turnout in excess of the 500 to 800 people expected. Given that some of the people from the earlier one will stay for the later one, that might happen. I doubt, however, that this will result in some positive, politically effective direct action, because I believe that the demoralization to which I have already alluded is involved here as well. Unfortunately, we are living at a time where both representational politics and direct action have failed to develop sufficient momentum to bring about a social transformation.

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