SANTA CRUZ – Hundreds of students have blocked both entrances to the UC Santa Cruz campus and are marching near the base of campus as part of the March 4 Day of Action, which is being held across the state to protest billions in budget cuts to California’s public education system. Some vandalism to cars has been reported.
UCSC officials, via their Web site, are warning everyone, including employees, not to come to campus because of potential safety concerns. Around 7 a.m. the university reported a vehicle windshield smashed near Hagar and Coolidge Drive, which is near faculty housing. Another UCSC staff member attempting to enter a campus entrance reported that protesters took photographs of the employee’s vehicle and license plate, “in an intimidating manner.”
At 8:45 a.m. medical staff were no longer allowed on campus. Students, who were controlling access to campus, had been allowing some health care workers to cross their barricade. Fire and law enforcement are being allowed entrance.
Protesters jumped on a passing car near the base of the UCSC campus this morning, shattering the windshield, Santa Cruz police Capt. Steve Clark said. The incident happened just before 8 a.m. at Western and High streets. Officers are still investigating, Clark said. That was the only protest-related incident so far, according to city police.
“The morning has gone fairly smooth for us,” Clark said.
Western Drive was blocked as dozens of students lined the road stopping traffic. But around 8 a.m., students moved toward the main entrance of campus, congregating near Hagar and Coolidge. Police have the main entrance to campus blocked. Several students are walking and biking up to campus.
Earlier in the morning at Western and High drivers and students interacted as drivers made their pleas to gain access through their neighborhood and onto campus. Those wishing access onto campus were mostly denied including a sobbing health care worker, though those who say they live in Bonny Doon were allowed through. A contractor at the UCSC arboretum was denied access, which resulted in a strong exchange of words. He vowed to never hire any of the students again. He parked his vehicle and walked onto campus.
When asked why they didn’t let the health care worker through, Mollie Kraemer, a student from Davis, said “well it’s tricky situation and we’re doing the best we can. One of the benefits and the faults is the majority decides.”
At 7:40 a.m. a Volvo sedan driver on High Street got into an altercation with students. A student jumped on the hood of the car while another smashed the rear window of the sedan as two UCSC police officers stood nearby. No one was detained though the driver pulled over and was talking to the officer. He was attempting to drive through the line to go downhill from High Street onto Western.
Jeff Duncan of Felton, who works for the facilities department at the Baskins School of Engineering, said he had given up on getting into campus and was trying to get out of the area. The students surrounded his car and when he wouldn’t roll down his window, they started battering his car and broke his back window.
“It’s kind of ridiculous. I totally sympathize with their cause and I wasn’t trying to get onto campus,” Duncan said.
UCSC police declined to comment on the incident, but said there have been few skirmishes.
High Street at Cardiff and Bay at Noble are closed.
Hundreds of students, staff and faculty from UCSC, Cabrillo and K-12 schools are taking part in today’s Day of Action to protest billions in budget cuts to California’s public education system and police are warning motorists to take alternate routes or be prepared for significant traffic jams, especially on the Westside of Santa Cruz.
Students at UCSC did as they had vowed shutting down access to campus at dawn. They plan to picketing and holding rallies at 9 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. at the base of the school.
Metro buses heading to UC Santa Cruz are dropping riders at the base of campus, but no bus delays have been reported. Routes 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 19, 20 and 27X are affected.
Santa Cruz police expected large portions of Mission Street, Bay Street and the downtown corridor will be affected by protesters.
Police encourage motorists to take alternate routes to avoid the intersections of Mission Street at Bay, Laurel and Chestnut streets; and Bay and High streets throughout the day. Drivers also should avoid Water Street in front of the Town Clock in mid-afternoon, when there is a planned communitywide protest.
In addition, police warned drivers to watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.
For information, go to http://www.ucsc.edu/news_events/protest/03-10. The campus radio station, KZSC 88.1, and campus communications hotline – 831-459-INFO – will provide updates throughout the day Thursday.
Also, Santa Cruz police will send out alerts, when necessary, though the new Nixle alert system. Register for free text and e-mail alerts at http://www.santacruzpolice.com
Cabrillo students and staff are going to hold a rally at noon at both the Aptos and Watsonville campuses, and K-12 educators, parents, students and supporters will gather at the Town Clock in Santa Cruz at 4 p.m. to speak to the loss of school funding.
The protests are part of a month-long demonstration for education, one piece of a solidarity movement by educators who are trying to show that troubles at one level of education impact all others.
UC Santa Cruz officials have had to cut about $50 million from their budget in the past two years and have asked academic and support services chairs for tentative plans to cut either 5.5 percent or 11 percent more for next year. About 1,700 students have pledged to strike. Classes have been canceled or moved off campus.
Cabrillo College , with a spring enrollment of 5,514, is teaching the equivalent of 1,500 full-time students without state compensation, which runs between $4,500 and $5,000 per year per the equivalent of a full-time student. They have preliminarily planned to lay off or reduce the hours of several full time employees.
Santa Cruz City Schools is looking to cut $5.2 million next year while the Pajaro Valley Unified School District is facing the loss of $8.7 million next year on top of $14 million in cuts for this year. Those include cuts to custodial staff and an assistant superintendent, class size increases from 20 to 30 students in kindergarten and third grade, and the loss of all sports funding.
Scotts Valley is figuring out how to spread $1.5 million in cuts over the next three years. Other districts are dipping into rainy day funds to make up their differences, and nearly all are relying increasingly on parent fundraising.