Picketers disagree on methods
March 4, 2010 4:45 PM
An estimated crowd of nearly 150 people spilled into the streets at 19th and Holloway avenues, blocking the intersection for approximately 10 minutes while the California Faculty Association held a peaceful informational picket line on the sidewalk.
The CFA organized picket line began at 10 a.m. and drew a variety of faculty, staff and student groups, including members of the California State University Employees Union (CSUEU) and the Academic Professionals of California.
At around 11:20 a.m., a large group of protesters, armed with signs, banners and drums, marched from the Caesar Chavez Student Center to the site of the picket line, where they entered the crosswalk at 19th Avenue, blocking traffic.
Officers from the Department of Public Safety and the San Francisco Police Department, some carrying riot gear, quickly cleared people from the crosswalk and ordered them to return to the sidewalks.
CFA organizers, who had issued a statement of non-violent, peaceful protest for the event, urged the group to clear the street. A CFA representative said the group who marched into traffic was not a part of the organized picket line.
"Students are angry and upset," said Sheila Tully, vice president of the executive board for the SF State CFA and an SF State lecturer. "They're exercising their free speech rights, but what I've told some of them is that when they do things like (block the street) the tactic becomes the news story and you lose the message."
Some students who spilled into the crosswalk on 19th Avenue identified themselves as members of various organizations, including the Black Student Union, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanalo de Aztlàn (MECha) and Improving Dreams Equity Access and Success (IDEAS), but declined to give their names. They weaved between cars waving banners and signs calling for an end to budget cuts.
A number of students involved in the CFA picket line said they were wary of the methods others have used to voice their frustration with the cuts.
"I'm happy to see the teachers get involved, but I'm worried about the aggression level," said Jen Torrence, 20, a political science major. "I don't want to see anyone get hurt."
Organizers of the picket line designated specific individuals, such as 19-year-old freshman, Jordan Royales, to monitor the crowd for evidence of violence.
"I think there are more civil ways to approach it," Royales said in regards to graffiti allegedly left by student protesters on the student center around 12:30 a.m.
Members of the CFA, CSUEU and numerous students marched in a circle stretching from the corner of Holloway Avenue to the HSS building with picket signs that read, "Bail out students not banks," "Lecturers pay is not equal to a living wage," and "Fund education not war." Picketers chanted slogans such as, "They say furlough, we say hell no!" As well as "Whose university? Our university!"
Students Faculty Staff United (SFSUnited) stood by holding a banner, which read "Shut it Down like '68" referring to the organization's call for students and faculty to strike.
Philip M. Klasky, a member of the SF State CFA Executive Board and an American Indian studies lecturer, estimated the crowd to be between 250 to 300 people.
Not all students on campus, however, were interested in supporting the various forms of protest on campus. Jonathan Smallwood, 25, a liberal studies major was leaving campus when the picket line began and would not be participating in any of the days events.
"Instead of protesting the negatives they should get involved," Smallwood said. "Get into committees that can work at ways to try and change the problems instead of trying to bash the government all the time."
The informational picket line was only the first of a series of events planned for the day by the CFA, which will culminate in a rally at the Civic Center in downtown San Francisco.
"We wanted to express to the public on 19th Avenue that these budget cuts are unacceptable," said Ann Robertson, a lecturer in the philosophy department and an executive board member for the CFA who was among the group of picketers.
"Forty thousands students were shut out of the CSU system this past year, 30 percent of faculty and staff have been laid off and furloughed and class size is much too big," Robertson said over the honks of passing cars and trucks. "We want to tell the politicians that funding education is one of the most important things that have to be implemented, because giving people a quality education is the best way to stimulate the economy."
At 12:15 p.m., a crowd of students from the theatre arts department, led by a tuba player and papier-måché puppets, marched up Holloway Avenue to meet with the picket line. The group then proceeded toward Malcolm X Plaza, where political theater and spoken word were set to begin at 12:30 p.m..
As the group passed the Business building, a number of students who were gathered at the entrance watched as a girl climbed onto the front awning and unfurled a banner reading: "Oscar Grant Memorial Hall - Todos Somos," along with a portrait of Grant.
A girl declared, "This is the Oscar Grant Memorial Hall, ya'll, this is not the Business building anymore," over a bullhorn, which brought cheers from the crowd gathered in front of the building. An organizer for the unveiling, who asked not to be named, said the action was a follow-up to the symbolic gesture made by Business building occupiers last December.
Despite the brief interruption caused by the unveiling, the picketers proceeded to pack into Malcolm X Plaza for a planned rally and teach-in.
Russell Kilday-Hicks, vice president for representation of the CSUEU brought his 9-year-old son with him to the picket line, pulling him out of school for the day.
"It's more important than him being in school. This is a part of his education," said Kilday-Hicks, a SF State alumnus himself.
"This is a long fight," Kilday-Hicks said. "It isn't about March 4, it's about March 5. What are we going to do tomorrow?"
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