West Facade of California Capitol
Today Capitol Park displayed its natural beauty. Mature camellias trees were burdened with new blooms of white, pink and red camellias. Below each tree laid a circular carpet of spent camellia petals of the same color as the new blooms.
Capitol Park, the grounds on which the Capitol of California sets, is usually quiet. Today noise from a circling Highway Patrol helicopter waxed and waned that something big was happening. The Highway Patrol, the official guardian of the Capitol, had dispatched an unusually large number of mounted and foot patrols.
Across the street within the jurisdiction of the city, complements from the city first responders stood vigilant. This company of first responders would be prepared for anything that might happen.
Assembled was a large crowd, but the matured redwoods, magnolias and sugar pines on the park’s peripheral hid from street view the true size of this assemblage. The young had gathered to protest cuts in education funding. The other were supporters of the occupy movement.
Students, who traveled as far as 300 miles to protest, wore tee shirts that partitioned them into groups from the same places. Some were in line to enter the Capitol; others conversed within their groups, while others enjoyed the park setting in conversation.
As I approached the Wast Capitol entry, the center of the largest concentration of protesters, the sounds from a tom-tom and an answering snare drum repeatedly voiced an unrest:
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.
After a few steps, I was able to read the hand-painted signs lying on the ground. The signs voiced the demonstrator’s grievances as well as the terse protests on their tee shirts. A sample of the slogans of dissatisfaction read:
Bail out Schools
Not the fools
Don’t let’ em get, away …
Make’ em pay!
Tax the Rich
#1 in Prison Spending
#47 in Education Spending
They’d rather incarcerate
Remember the California
MASTER PLAN ???
Our future depends in it.
Near the West entry of the Capitol a man had just finished addressing a group of students. I identified myself and asked, “Why are you here?” He said, “I am Tim G., a faculty advisor at Los Angeles Mission College (LAMC). I am leading this group of concerned students to advocate for fee reductions and more financial aid.”
I asked him for permission to speak to two students from the college. He granted me the permission then he chose two students: Angie A G. and Lora E.
Tim introduced Angie to me. I asked her the same question. She said, “I am demonstrating to fight for education and against rising fees. I want to help improve the welfare of all. It’s wrong, upsetting: what politicians do.” Angie identified herself as a resident student who plans to transfer to San Francisco State University to become an English teacher.
Then Lora E. approached me. Her response to the same question was, “I have two daughters: one is adopted. They have just graduated. One will go to University of California at Riverside and the other, to the College of the Canyon. I want to be a positive influence on them, but the situation is getting worse to pay for three students.” Lora had recently enrolled at LAMC. After LAMC she would transfer to California State University, Northridge to study psychology.
On the South lawn, was a lone demonstrator wearing a black tee shirt emblazoned with bold white letters OCCUPY SAN DIEGO. I approached him and identified myself. He told me that he is Mike G., a staff member at California State University San Marcos.” Then I asked, “Why are you here?”
He said, “I am here because I have four children. I want to protect access to higher education, support the MASTER PLAN and give a strong voice against privatization in education.” Mike took a breath and continued, “It leads to profits for politicians and the rich, rather than a balanced education for students.” Closing he said, “This is a great awakening of the sleeping giant. I hope it continues to stir.”
About 6:31 PM the crowd swelled at the Capitol West entrance. State police, in riot gear lined two deep positioned themselves between the crowd and the West entry. A few students were still inside the Capitol which officially closes to visitors at 6:00 PM. After returning home, I learned from a KCRA TV broadcast that the trespassing students were told to vacate the building or they would be arrested.
March 5, 2012