Rally replaces March

Students strut anyway

The soles of student shoes did not march in unity over the Tower Bridge Monday, March 2, and the concerns of community colleges did not echo off the buildings that line the Capitol Mall as in years past, because organizers of the annual March in March student protest scratched the physical march itself.

The once-popular march was just a small rally of more than 200 people who gathered on the lawn where individual caucus tables were located for students to acquire information and tips on how to lobby legislators at the California State Capitol.

“The march was not officially endorsed this year,” said Omar Paz, president of the Student Senate of California Community Colleges.  “We were not able to do what we’ve done in the past which was close down the streets because that requires more money than we had available.”

Some attendees, however, were determined to march anyway. Students and supporters marched along the sidewalks chanting on their way to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, led by Keith Montes, a Diablo Valley College student and Associated Students board member, who had rallied them to march the five blocks.

“I would like to garner support for us to have an impromptu march and I think the proposed location should be the chancellor’s office because that’s where we can actually make a demand,” said Montes moments before heading out. “We should march there and we should march back to the legislators who are the ones making the poor choices.”

Los Medanos College Associated President Gary Walker attended the March in March, representing the Spectrum Caucus, and gives full credit to Montes for organizing the impromptu march that allowed an additional platform for advocacy.

“This year as Spectrum’s director of advocacy, we chose to elevate trans-students issues which was not only expressed to our legislators in the Capitol, this message resonated at the chancellor’s office thanks to Keith’s organization of the outstanding and brave impromptu March,” said Walker.

LMCAS was not in attendance due to timing and scheduling issues.

“LMCAS was planning to attend, however, we ran into many hiccups through the planning process,” said Walker.

In front of the chancellor’s building students took turns expressing their concerns through a bullhorn.

Students like Mohanned Abdelhameed, associate justice of student government from San Bernardino Valley College, addressed the crowd.

“We need to let these people know, “ he said, “that this is an investment in our future and their future, we got to let them understand that at the end of the day we’re the constituents they work for us not the other way around.”

California Community College’s Vice Chancellor Paul Feist applauded as he observed the congregation of students.

“We advocate for students every day, but it really makes a difference when the students come up here and the legislators can see their faces. It’s very powerful,” said Feist, adding “this is a great passion and enthusiasm on part of the students.”

Even though the day could be deemed a success, some felt that having a physical march is what is needed.

Student Senator Casey Bess, representative of Region 2 of the Student Senate of California Community Colleges, voted in favor of keeping the march and said marching is an important aspect in making a statement.

“I believe that the march was central to conveying our dedication to the cause. Our rally could not draw as much attention,” said Bess in an email.

Bess also conveyed the decision to remove the march was a hasty one that may have left some ill-prepared for the new structure of the event.

“March in March was rapidly approaching and they needed it finalized,” said Bess. “But the change should have waited another year, to give students the chance to prepare and understand the change. My ASO and others in my region felt as if the life was sucked from the march. Even if a rally proves to be a better idea in the future, you don’t tell people for nine months it’s a march, then three months out it is a rally.”

Others felt differently. Andrew Napier, external affairs senator of Region 1 said he voted for the change.

“I was personally in favor of the rally and, in the larger picture, the ‘Classroom to the Capitol’ concept, because it brings some much-needed focus on advocacy to the March In March Event,” said Napier in an email. “It’s easier to rally students in difficult times. The real challenge with this year’s event is that things are getting better. Community Colleges are receiving more attention than ever. I feel that it would be ineffective to have thousands of students marching on the capitol about cuts.”