In response to the state government's attempt to use the crisis as en excuse for rolling back public services -including tuition increases of 32% at the UC system- students and workers struck and occupied across the state of California, as did their counterparts at colleges in New York and 30 other states, defying efforts to corral the movement into after-work rallies or "dialogues" at the Capitol.
One of the most striking facts about the breadth of the action on March 4 was the popularity of radical action in areas with very little history of struggle. Students across the UC system were consciously referring to their activity as a strike and attempting to shut down their campuses, not just at the "activist" campuses of Berkeley, LA, and Santa Cruz, but also at San Diego, Irvine and Riverside (all in the heart of suburban Southern California), Santa Barbara (notorious as a party school) and Davis (the agricultural campus, located in "The Tomato Capitol of the World").
According to Occupy California (occupyca.wordpress.com), each of these campuses saw at least several hundred students attempting to shut down the functioning of the university and, in many cases, to spread the disruption off campus. At Santa Cruz pre-dawn picket lines closed the entrances to the campus and were held even against violent attempts by drivers to break through, including one attempt by the driver of a Prius that broke a picket's leg. Many campus workers, instead of getting angry at another "student protest", respected the strike by joining the picket lines or by defying supervisors (and police escorts) and claiming that they couldn't get through the picket lines. In Oakland, around 1000 students from Berkeley joined students and teachers from public schools, community colleges, and CSUs for a mid-day rally at City Hall. The marchers managed to get onto Interstate 880, a freeway going through the most working-class sections of Oakland, where 150 were arrested. At Irvine and Davis hundreds of students shut down their campuses and then moved to shut down surrounding traffic - in Davis the marchers then moved to occupy Interstate 80 (the main artery to nearby Sacramento), but after overcoming several lines of police using batons and shooting pepper balls, were eventually prevented. Similar strike attempts occurred at other UC campuses, as well as many campuses of the California State University.
There were simultaneous actions at universities in 31 other states, including at several branches of the CUNY and SUNY systems in New York. Take The City reports an occupation at SUNY Purchase, as well as demonstrations and walk-outs at Brooklyn College, CUNY Hunter, and the CUNY Graduate Center.
The movement is spreading and echoing quicker than anyone expected. Capital demands its pound of flesh and, in so doing, creates its own gravediggers. The students are not relying on any existing organizations for leadership but are spontaneously creating General Assemblies to strategize. By consciously referring to the movement as a strike and by attempting to spread off campus students are showing an implicit consciousness that this is not simply about 'defending education', but is about refusing to pay for the crisis created by the contradictions of capitalism. In order to move forward, the strike movement is going to have to spread - students will have to make links with workers, such as the 15,000 municipal workers who are receiving pink slips in San Francisco today, and they will have to encourage the workers to form general assemblies or general strike committees, instead of relying on the established unions that will divide the workers and prevent a general strike.
More to come...