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Hundreds of Modesto JC Students Walkout and March Through Streets; Disrupt Mayor's Event
Students walkout of class, march around campus and through streets. Disrupt an event the Modesto Mayor had organized.
This morning, several hundred Modesto Junior College students responded to a call for a walkout against budget cuts that would result in the gutting of various departments and the laying off of faculty. Students rallied in the quad in front of the Morris (administration) building for over half an hour, giving impromptu speeches on how the cuts and layoffs would affect them. Security guards attempted to stop various students with mega-phones encouraging other students to join the rally from disrupting classes, but generally stood off to the side and took pictures of protesters. According to several students that were interviewed today, administrators with Modesto Junior College again called police and warned security that members of Modesto Anarcho would be on the campus, 'stiring up trouble.' Also speaking at the rally were several faculty members who expressed solidarity with the students for standing with them.
After rallying, students marched around the campus, chanting, "No Cuts, No Fees, Education Should Be Free," and "They Say Cut Backs, We Say Fight Back!" After marching around the outside of the campus, the march then snaked through Pirates Village, drawing more students into the march and causing staff to come outside and voice their support for the several hundred protesters. Students then marched through the student center and straight towards the Morris Building, home to the school administration. After finding the doors in the front locked, students moved to the back and security quickly locked the doors for fear of students entering the building.
Students then moved to the Art Department, where the director of the gallery addressed the crowd. The students then decided to move downtown. Upon leaving the campus, students took to the street. At one point, someone in the march slowly drove their car into the crowd, and several people began ghostriding. A block before J Street, two police arrived on motorcycles and attempted to move the crowd onto the sidewalk. Students refused and held the street, moving up J Street and on to 10 the Street Place. Unknown to the students, the Mayor of Modesto was also hosting a 'protest' at the time, attended by various city bureaucrats, head police, and various local Mayors, protesting Governor Brown taking away of funds for city redevelopment. On the very same day, it was announced that Modesto City School would lay-off 32 teachers, while administrators continue to make salaries in the hundreds of thousands.
Looking stunned, the few people speaking at the event and in the audience wrapped up their event (not being able to be heard over the large group of students) and disappeared. Students expressed their outrage towards those in suits. Students began chanting, "Save Teachers, Cut Admins;" several speeches were made linking the Modesto Police to the MJC Security, both of which sought to stop students and workers from resisting the crisis, as well as the local politicians to those passing austerity measures at MJC. Student then headed back to the college, still chanting, with police and then campus security following close by.
Today was an important day for many reasons. Hundreds of students at Modesto Junior College walked out of class and rallied and marched for hours. Many faculty and staff were directly supportive of the walkout, allowing students to attend the event, promoting the event in class, and some faculty even shut their classes down so students could attend. The messages of solidarity that were expressed at the rally in front of the Morris building also did much to further the bonds between students and workers. The lack of fear that students expressed in the face of harassment by security and the administration who spent the last week intimidating students from joining the walkout, was inspiring. Students were also not afraid to hold the streets even as the police attempted to remove them. Nor were they afraid to stand up to the Mayor, Brand Hawn, and all the other city bureaucrats who slinked back into their rat holes in the face of an crowd of angry students.
This resistance is only a sign of things to come as the crisis gets worse and working people must stand up and defend themselves. We welcome it. What happened today at MJC sets of precedent. Students came together and disrupted 'business as usual' at their school. They took action en mass at their college and in the streets. They did not back down in the face of the police or the administration. The struggle is far from over, but at least people have begun.