Los Angeles, CA - As of Nov. 18, dozens of tents are cropping up on UCLA’s quad as over 100 students begin a tent city, part of an all-night protest against the budget cuts, layoffs and tuition hikes in the University of California (UC) system. The students are waiting for buses filled with trade unionists and students from across the UC system to arrive in the early morning hours, in time for massive protests on Nov. 19 and 20.
While they wait for the others to arrive, the students at UCLA attend workshops to discuss the broader struggle for public education, from privatization of K-12 education to the struggle for adequate resources for community colleges. Slam poets and improv rappers connect the UC budget crisis with the illegal wars that the U.S. is waging in foreign countries and the economic crisis that has caused millions to lose their jobs and homes across the country. This is Crisis Fest: a political gathering and protest event to kick off the protests set for the coming days.
The tent city and Crisis Fest convention follow a day of mass protest Nov. 18 where hundreds of students pushed past the barricades to where the UC regents were meeting. The protesters were met by repression, as police declared the assembly ‘unlawful’ and violently pushed the students back. The police used Tasers on several students and arrested 14 others. Those who were arrested staged a civil disobedience action inside the committee meeting where the tuition hike was agreed upon, singing We Shall Overcome until they were removed.
Despite the mass protests, the UC regents voted to increase tuition 32% for the spring semester. This increase is just the beginning, as another tuition increase is planned before the fall semester next year.
But it is clear that they will not be able to do it without a fight from the community. Students, faculty and staff of the University of California system are coming together to stand in solidarity and fight back against the budget cuts.
“These students deserve to have the same public education I enjoyed,” said Lauren Anderson, who is a recent graduate from UCLA’s masters program. “If they had wanted the price tag of a privatized university they would have gone to USC [University of Southern California, a private university]. I am in complete solidarity with them.”
On Nov. 19 the protest starts back up bright and early. “The regents have to know that we aren’t going anywhere,” says Janet Ramer, a UCLA staff member. “We are not going to just stand by while they cut our pay.”