Protesters of all professions and ages spoke, sang, chanted and marched while waving brightly-colored signs in English, Spanish and Mandarin during a rally for education and social service funding in front of City Hall this evening.
Members of San Francisco community organizations, labor unions, and Occupy movements at the rally addressed a host of problems revolving around the budget cuts to schools and programs in both speech and song.
“I owe $27,000 [to the university] and I have no degree to show for it!” yelled Alex Schmaus, a journalism major from the City College of San Francisco to the cheering crowd atop a makeshift stage. “Is there something wrong with me, or is there something wrong with the system?”
“Who’s ever felt that you didn’t get a fair shot in life? You’re not alone! We are the 99 percent!” said Shaw-San Liu, Lead Organizer for the Chinese Progressive Association. “We’ve played by the 1 percent’s rules. It’s time to play by the 99 percent’s rules.”
While San Francisco Police Department Captain Ann Mannix estimated up to 500 attended the event, rally lead organizer Allen Fisher said anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 people participated at its peak.
Fisher, who is also an English as a Second Language Professor at CCSF, was happy with the turn out.
“It was a united effort from different sectors. It was definitely a success because we’re a very diverse crowd of people and we’re united and we know what we want,” Fisher said. “A small group of people have the majority of the wealth and we’re all suffering for it.”
Classroom overcrowding was a dire concern for science teacher Richard McDowell, who is also a SF State alumnus.
“How can you put 36 adolescent kids in a classroom and expect them to receive a sound education?” said McDowell. “As a teacher, I think there’s a lot of energy to blame the failing system on teachers and it’s time that teachers speak out on over-sized classrooms.”
Children as young as elementary school-grade both protested and spoke at the City Hall rally.
For one of the rally’s youngest protestors Amelia Smith, 5, Thursday’s protest was already her second.
“There was a protest on March 4 two years ago with the first round of budget cuts, and we’re back again, sadly,” said the child’s mother, Shelly Smith.
To CCSF Faculty Union President Alisa Messer, the answer to the budget problems was to tax the people with more means.
“We’re defending education and social services, and we need to tax the wealthy,” said Messer, who teaches English.
The rally dispersed 20 minutes early due to dwindling crowds and biting-cold weather. Liu urged the remaining participants to go to the California State building where protestors were still occupying the building.