BEAT Club Occupies Gov’s Office

As part of the ongoing backlash against cuts in education funding, City College students occupied Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s local office on Jan. 4.

While supporters outside held a large sign declaring the government building “Occupied”, nine members of the student organization BEAT (Bringing Education and Activism Together) made their way to the 6th floor where the Governor’s San Diego representation is housed. Once inside, they demanded to have their concerns heard. The governor was not available but the students were able to speak with his Director of External Affairs Bismark Obando.

Devin Morrow, one of the occupiers, said, “We talked to Sacramento for about an hour. We talked about education but he was not sympathetic to our point of view.”

A leader of BEAT, Jose Rodriguez said, “(Sacramento) ‘wants to stick with what works’, things like charter schools and privatized education. They also said there would be more cuts coming.”

During the occupation, BEAT’s faculty advisor Larissa Dorman was outside the building communicating with the students inside.

“The students felt placated. Since intercession was cancelled, they had nowhere else to go (to be heard). They asked to speak with the gov. but the office staff told us that wasn’t going to happen. We spoke with the governor’s representative (over the phone) but he seemed unclear on the specifics of the situation. Their ideas are for strings attached funding based on teacher performance. They say that the cuts are needed and the students are whining.”

BEAT members attempted to stream video of the protest onto the web but had technical problems. They were able to post text updates on social networking sights according to Morrow.

Staff members of the governor’s office were said to be inhospitable to the visitors. “They told us that, unless we were there on state business, we couldn’t use the restrooms,” added Morrow.

After the students arrival in the office, California Highway Patrolmen were called to the scene. “They gave us options not to be arrested.” said Morrow. “I tried to tell then that our ideas (for state funding) would benefit them also but he said he couldn’t help us while in uniform.”

All students did leave the office without being arrested. Demonstrations continued throughout the day outside the Front St. office building with budget cut protestors stating their points of view through a megaphone, chanting and holding signs.

In reference to future resistance, Rodriguez said the activist club is “brainstorming” and will remain involved in contesting decisions by the gov. and legislature that adversely affect education.

Dorman said that no journalists were allowed inside the building, and the Patrolmen blocked the door of the lobby to make sure no other students could get in.

“As soon as they found out the reason for our visit, their tone changed. When the phone meeting was over the students were told that, if they did not leave, they would be removed. They (the governor’s staff) decide when we will be heard.”

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BEAT Club Occupies Gov’s Office