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Student Activists Prep For National Day Of Action

Callie Schweitzer |
October 6, 2010 | 4:47 p.m. PDT


Scherer on March 4 in front of Gov. Schwarzenegger's office in downtown San Diego. (Courtesy of Wayne Scherer)
Scherer on March 4 in front of Gov. Schwarzenegger's office in downtown San Diego. (Courtesy of Wayne Scherer)
Wayne Scherer will be one of many people in San Diego dressed for a funeral on Thursday.

The 27-year-old anthropology student will be mourning the death of public education.

He’ll be joined by other students from San Diego City College, parents, teachers, workers, organizers and activists in a funeral procession through downtown San Diego holding candles and signs.

They’ll be mourning a loss seen in overcrowded classrooms, in the homes of students who can no longer pay tuition due to recent fee hikes, in the minds of students who can’t find room in the classes they need to graduate and in the final paycheck of a laid-off teacher.

Scherer belongs to Education for All, a San Diego County grassroots organization devoted to fighting cuts to education and social services. The coalition, formed last fall, is just one group participating in the Oct. 7 National Day of Action. Campuses across the country are planning events including a rally at Brooklyn College, a teach-in at the University of New Mexico and a rally at the University of California Los Angeles.

“We’re being told by government officials that there’s no money for education, health care or social services. But at that same time we’re spending trillions of dollars on war efforts, on bailing out banks and on building prisons,” he said. “So it’s not a matter of the money not being there, it’s a matter of political priorities.”

The plans for Oct. 7 came about in early September at the San Diego Regional Summit when about 70 representatives from different organizations in the county came together to strategize, Scherer said.

“It’s a funeral scene,” he said. “The death of public education and social services, essential services for society, at the hands of these politicians and big markets.”

The protestors will be stopping at various public buildings and institutions during the procession and placing headstones at each one--R.I.P. Justice at the county jail, R.I.P. ethics at a bank, R.I.P. education and social services at City Hall and R.I.P. humanity at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building, Scherer said.

“At each of these locations we’re going to place altars and host a rally there, marching silently between locations,” he said. 

The actions planned for Thursday mirror March 4, 2010, when tens of thousands of students, parents, teachers and workers across the country took to the streets to protest budget cuts on California's designated “Student Day of Action.”

Nearly 2,000 people protested outside Gov. Schwarzenegger’s office in downtown San Diego that spring day and shut down traffic in the area.

Scherer said he’s hopeful that thousands will turn out for Thursday’s protests, but participation may be lower because many schools in the University of California and California State University systems have just returned from summer break, leaving them with only a week or two to organize.

“We’re not going to have our demands met that day,” he said. “October 7 itself is just a step, just a milestone where we’re going to voice our evolution so far. My expectation is that we grow from there.”

Oct. 7 also serves as a precursor to a statewide “Mobilizing Conference” being held at San Francisco State University on Oct. 30 and 31.

“There’s a lot of support for what we’re doing and what this particular movement is expressing,” Scherer said. “Investing in education is the most wise thing to do…It makes absolutely no sense why education has become less accessible.”

Though the March protests centered on education, San Diego activists have reached out to justice and immigration groups and others to expand the coalition’s October strike in hopes of gaining strength, Scherer said.

“What’s been happening as people organize is they’re able to make connections with each other and realize how these are the same battles just on different fronts,” he said. “Hopefully we can get closer to addressing and developing a  political role and realigning the agenda of these politicians who are working bolstering their own interests and the interests of corporations that contribute to their campaigns.”

Thursday’s march will end with a reformation festival featuring local musicians, spoken word performances and personal testimonials, which Scherer calls the “rebirth” in the cycle.

It’ll fill the void many felt when the spring protest unceremoniously came to an end.

“The end of the action of that day wasn’t as powerful as it could be or as satisfying as it could be. March 4 ended with a powerful rally, but at the end of the rally the protestors went home,” Scherer said.

So organizers looked internationally for answers.

“We studied what other countries have been doing because this isn’t isolated to the United States,” he said noting that both Europe and areas of South America have been dealing with these same issues

“We took some elements of what happened out there and recognized the festive element offers an area or a space for people to bond or dialogue with each other or create the community roots that we’re lacking right now that are necessary to have,” he said.

But in the meantime, Scherer and other organizers are working “full time” to prepare for Thursday.

“Everybody that becomes involved in this is involved because they’re compassionate people,” he said. “No one’s paid to be an activist or a revolutionary.”

To reach editor-in-chief Callie Schweitzer, click here.

To follow her on Twitter: @cschweitz

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