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About 300 protestors confronted a blockade of police today in an unsuccessful attempt to march on Interstate 80 in Davis, resulting in one student’s arrest.
Tensions erupted when protestors tried to push past shoulder-to-shoulder lines of 120 officers from 10 law enforcement agencies. Laura Mitchell, a senior sociology-organizational studies major, was arrested on suspicion of inciting a riot and resisting arrest and was dragged from the group of protestors into a law enforcement vehicle. Protestors left the scene after police agreed to cite and release Mitchell instead of taking her to jail.
The protest was part of the March 4 Day of Action, a nationwide series of rallies for K-12 and higher education funding.
Officers in full tactical gear fired pepper balls at the ground in front of the protestors. At one point, police used batons to beat back a throng of students pushing forward.
Some police had stun guns, but a UC Davis police spokesperson said they were not used by any officers, despite what many students reported hearing and seeing. A California Aggie photographer captured an image of a California Highway Patrol officer pressing a stun gun to a protestor’s neck. A CHP spokesman told The Aggie that no stun guns were fired.
Protestors encountered three separate lines of police on Old Davis Road and pushed through the first two. At the second line, about 100 yards from the I-80 on-ramp, police began firing pepper balls at the ground. At the last line, Mitchell was arrested and protestors stopped pushing against police.
The day of action began at 11 a.m., when students gathered at the Activities and Recreation Center and began a march around campus. Students marched in protest of fee increases, furloughs, cuts to campus services and the structure of the UC system.
While some students went to the Capitol in Sacramento during this time, many stayed on campus to call awareness to what they believe is a corrupt UC system.
“Even if UC got more funding from the state, they wouldn’t spend it on students,” said Cynthia Degnan, a graduate student in the English department. “They would spend it on privatizing our university.”
Fire alarms were pulled in Storer, Chemistry, Olson, Kerr, Wellman and Hart Halls, as well as at Shields Library, forcing all those inside to evacuate. No suspects have been identified.
“It was a symbolic gesture to show that education cannot continue under these circumstances,” Degan said.
Some students inside the buildings said the false alarms were counterproductive to the message of education.
“It was completely and totally disrespectful that they pulled those alarms,” said Maggie Mello, a senior history major who evacuated Olson Hall. “We pay $100 a day to learn without disruption here, and I have a right to be in class. It was petty and irrational.”
The students marching then moved the MU bus terminal and blocked Unitrans and Yolobus buses in order to communicate the importance of their cause.
“Business cannot go on as usual,” said Sergio Blanco, a senior political science major.
After halting bus services for approximately 30 minutes, the march progressed down Howard Way, stopping at the intersection of Russell Boulevard. Unitrans service was severely affected during this time and after, said Greg Strecker, a third year political science major and Unitrans dispatcher.
“Most of the buses could not get through and ran late,” he said. “I know a lot of people who were late to school. One guy missed his midterm. I agree with a lot of [the protestor’s] ideas, but we are here for an education and we already paid for it.”
Still, those involved were pleased with the way the march was able to rally support and draw attention, said protestor Brian Ramirez-Corona at the intersection of Howard and Russell.
“I’m really proud of our students,” Ramirez-Corona said. “We just got so many people to come out to this intersection, and I think it’s really going to make a statement to the UC regents.”
Students then marched 2.5 miles around the perimeter of central campus to the Interstate 80 on-ramp where the arrest occurred at approximately 2:45 p.m. Sheri Atkinson, director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, arrived after Mitchell’s arrest to negotiate her release and stayed after the protestors left to assist Mitchell.
Protestors then returned to campus and marched throughout the library and other lecture halls, where more alarms were pulled. The march moved to the intersection of Anderson and Russell, where approximately 100 students blocked traffic and danced to the beat of drums.
Earlier this morning at UC Berkeley, 100 protestors held a peaceful rally at Sather Gate. Another rally on Sproul Plaza was held at noon.
Approximately 1,000 protestors – along with high school students – marched south for six miles to rally at Oakland City Hall. The march proceeded south to rally in Oakland and later seven blocks were occupied. At 3 p.m., 1,500 people filled Frank Ogawa Plaza.
About 120 protestors were arrested for blocking traffic on Interstate 880 during rush hour, just before 5 p.m. Although police reopened lanes at 5:30 p.m., traffic was already backed up for miles in all directions.
One protestor either fell or jumped from the freeway onto a tree and roadway about 25 feet below. Paramedics took the protestor away.
For more information on today’s march in Davis, read Monday’s Aggie.
JEREMY OGUL contributed to reporting. LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. POOJA KUMAR can be reached at email@example.com.
UPDATE – March 5, 2010: CHP has confirmed they did not fire any stun guns. Laura Mitchell is a sociology-organizational studies major. Cynthia Degnan’s name was misspelled in the original version of this article.