LOS ANGELES — An estimated 3,000 community college students met Friday afternoon at Pershing Square downtown to protest the major budget cuts that Gov. Gray Davis and the state Legislature have presented.
The march, organized primarily by the Los Angeles Community College District, featured many well-known leaders and advocates from around the community.
The current budget situation has created a brotherhood between community colleges that has not been seen in the past.
Friday is just the continuation of the fight many students have put in since the announced cuts early last year. In March, 10,000 students marched to the doors of the Legislature in Sacramento to show the unity among the students.
Sentiment ran deep for the cause for which they were fighting. In a pre-march gathering at Glendale Community College, the hot topic was Davis.
“It is unjust that the governor has used his power to do this to so many people” said GCC student Steve Childs. “We understand that there are going to be cuts, but all we want them to be is fair. Equality must be fair throughout the state. Gov. Davis must understand that community college students have a voice, and we will not be happy until there is even allocation of the cuts through out the system.”
Antonino Patti, president of ASGCC, who also spoke during the rally, said, “Davis and the Legislature do not see us as voters in the state. They see us as just another figure ,and we have to show them that we are not at the bottom of the pile, as they think we are.”
The 2003-2004 budget calls for $1 billion in cuts over the next two years for community colleges. The Community College League of California has projected that the cuts will close the doors on over 206,000 students with in the next year.
The cut in Los Angeles will be the biggest where over 52,000 students will not be able to attend school. The biggest hit will be among Latino students where over 19,000 students in LA County will have to leave school due to the raise in fees.
Former high school drop out and East Los Angeles College alumni, former Speaker of California State Assembly, and Los Angeles City Councilmember-elect Antonio Villraigosa said about the rally “This is great what you are doing for yourselves. From a person who came from a generation that protested the war in Vietnam, this is how you get your voices heard. You have to let the Governor know that you have a voice and that you are not afraid to use it. The community college system has so much to offer students that come from so many different backgrounds”.
Villraiagosa who was supported by Davis his bid for Mayor of Los Angeles in 2001, stayed away from blaming Davis for the budget problems.
Assemblywoman D-39th Cindy Montanez who made a promise to all the students there when she said “The hell I will vote for any kind of budget that will hurt you the students of the community colleges.”
Also speaking on behalf of the teachers was President of the American Federation of Teachers Carl Freidlander who said “Today you are teachers. Today you are teaching the adults a course in political science”.
After a an hour of speakers the students took to the streets of downtown marching a little over a mile to the front of the Ronald Regan State building where Davis has his office in Los Angeles. Marching behind a Teamsters union 18-wheeler the students, marched the route peacefully along with L.A.P.D officers in riot gear in case an incident was to flair up. The peaceful march ended up back at Pershing Square without any incident. One person was treated at the scene for heat exhaustion.
After the march West Los Angeles College student Nehasi Ronald Lee said “We as students can yell and protest all we want, but it is not until we vote that Governor Davis will hear how loud our voice is”.