March 5th brought thousands of students, teachers, labor activists, and occupiers to Sacramento to protest cuts to higher education and push for the Millionaire’s tax to fund vital public services. While students were inside lobbying legislators to protect our public colleges and universities, thousands marched to the Capitol for a spirited rally that included speeches by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome, Senate Leader Steinberg, and Assembly Leader Perez. While the legislators stated that the best way to support higher education is to support the governor’s tax plan, most of the speakers argued for the Millionaire’s tax.
After the rally, hundreds of people entered the Capitol and attempted to occupy the building. There was a heavy police presence, and for several hours, we were allowed to hold a general assembly to vote on our demands. The central demands were to support the millionaire’s tax, make public higher education free, and forgive student loan debt. At about 5 p.m., the police decided to close the building early, and we were soon told that we would be arrested if we did not leave. During this time, three students were arrested for trying to hang a banner from the second floor of the Rotunda. When I confronted the California Highway Patrol officers about their efforts to choke off the constitutional rights of free speech and the freedom of assembly, I was told that the students are a threat to public safety because they were blocking the pathway to the exists. I guess if you put highway patrol people in charge of the Capitol, they see everything in terms of traffic.
At 5:30, we held a scheduled rally outside of the Capitol. In a short speech, I argued that we are not only fighting for more revenue for higher education in the state of California, but our push for the Millionaire’s tax is a national fight to reverse forty years of conservative tax cuts and the de-funding of public education. I did a radio interview during the rally on this topic that you can listen at here.
After the rally, we attempted to deliver pizzas to the people who were still in the Capitol. Hundreds of us marched to the other side of the building where we met a very large group of police in full military-style riot gear. We told them that we wanted to deliver the food to the people in the building, but we were informed that the occupiers had to come out to get their pizza. We then a long standoff, which was punctuated by several chants like, “How do we want our Pizza?,” “We want it hot!” and “Let them Eat!”
We were never able to deliver the pizza, and soon 70 occupiers were arrested, but we did deliver our message. I want to thank Charlie Eaton from UAW, who did a great job coordinating many of these activities. To support the Millionaire’s tax go here, and for more media about March 5th, go here.