From a distance, as you walk near the city hall of the city of Riverside, the st atue of Martin Luther

King Jr looks peaceful; the sun is out without a cloud in sight. The small park is beautiful; simple, but beautiful. There is a faint chan t in the background. As you go closer to the bronze work of art, your eyes can n o longer focus on the statue of a memorable leader of the 1960s; no, your eyes t urn to a group of people behind it. The chants, the beats, the posters…they all fi nally become legible to your eyes. As you go closer, you notice signs like “Educat ion First!” “Education Not For Sale!”. This is March 2nd, the National Day of Action f or Public Education. I hurriedly rushed to this rally with a friend. I was anxious to become part of it…to chant and yell and display posters on the streets of downtown Riverside. It was exciting to actually stand up for something that you were not alone in prot ecting! The idea of meeting others involved in this matter was, of course, the h ighest motivator for myself as I searched for details to cover. “Just for one hour,” my friend lamely said. “I don’t want to pay for parking anyway.” I couldn’t really hear his whines; there was a loud “People-want-to-know! Who-we-are ! So-we-tell-them! We-are-STUDENTS!” Everywhere, without shame, and with pride, po sters were held up high. Organizers were in red; the rest wore ordinary clothes, with picket signs and water bottles, backpacks and a determination that was soo n contagious. The group of about 150 students was a melting pot of individuals, of all ages and backgrounds…some were parents, students, professors, and others, l ike my friend, were simply dragged in the fray. “There was strong support earlier,” Jordan Rohde informed me. “But as the day went on, many left to attend their classes.” Jordan was holding a poster sign in her right hand when I met her. It was obviou s she was an organizer because of her red shirt, paired with a stripped black an d white dress. She was a red-haired girl, slim, shorter than me as far as I coul d tell, and in her early twenties. Blue-eyed, with some freckles on her face, Ms . Rohde was (sure enough) a student to be reckoned with. “The simple fact that this is going to affect so many people at one time should be enough for others to care.” Her voice was a matter-of-fact. Her focus in studies was Women Studies at the Un iversity of California Riverside, and already she was finished with three years at the University. “I’m not properly informed, but you should ask the group over there. They’re the maste rminds. I came here because my friend told me about it. So you could say I’m an or ganizer and a peacekeeper.” Rohde’s passions and values were quickly obvious. She pointed at a group of students that were all in red (discreetly of course), standing behind the multitudes. I thanked her, and moved closer to the center of a small platform where the masterminds were about to prepare a speech. “There are other ways to fund education!” said a professor as he was given a microph one to talk. He was easily in his fifties; the man had white hair, with a blue dress shirt an d a dark dress pants. In his right hand he held the microphone; in his left, a p iece of paper, which I suspect he used as reference as he spoke. I couldn’t really understand what he was saying (well, he used much vocabulary that I suspect was found in the science of economics) but I understood the idea: tax the highest o

ne percent of the state. “There are long term and short term solutions that the state could look into. Tax the oil companies! Other conservative states do that. If they are using a non-re newable resource, then California should look into that!” (Students cheer) “And what happens to the railroads and other companies and estates in which then p ower always remains under the same name?” (Students boo) “Tax them too! Split the tax rolls! For a short term solution, there should be a p assage of extension the taxes!” Though I couldn’t grab everything he said, the student cheered for his words. (Students cheer, applaud. Next speaker, David Castillo, speaks) “I just want to thank you who came from UCR, Cal Poly, Cal State, and Valley Colle ge!” (Students cheer; I yell as I hear my school called out) “Every year, students must try and try harder to just pay off their studies. We ar e here to go to school, not to fatten a fat politician’s wallet!” (Students yell and applaud) “Because of us, they are in that seat! Because of my people, they are getting paid , while we stand here in disgrace!” (Students boo) “My sister is a part time student. But just to pay her classes, she works about 50 hours a week, getting paid at minimum wage. Minimum wage, just to pay her class es! (Students boo) David’s indignation was apparent. “These policies that we see in our states and nation just shows how this place is no longer meant for us,” he told me. “I’ve met so many that say that the poor aren’t in the best interest of this country. I’ve seen many stupid and ignorant comments fro m politically narrow-minded people. It’s really sad, but it is what it is, you kno w?” Dressed in a checkered white and red shirt with jeans, a black bandanna to empha size his legal status, and a backpack, with a light goatee, Castillo was eager t o “spread the word”. He had noticed that his problems were ones challenged by the SJ A, and now he found himself becoming one of their leaders. Though the club stand s for a good cause, it is not recognized at UCR. “Yea, when they knew what we were about, they refused to make us official. So ever ything we do is out of our own pockets. Sure, we do fundraising and all, but the fact is that we are not recognized, while other fraternities and sororities are . We had to get up at four in the morning to publicize this event [in UCR], beca use we could get in trouble!”

   

I looked at my watch. Already 4 pm? My friend motioned me to leave. It was sad, but, as Castillo says, “it is what it is”. I received his contact information, thank ed him, wished him luck, and walked with Joseph to his car. The protest was spread in LA, Berkeley, and though this did get some media cover age, I quickly remember Castillo’s words as he spoke on the platform: “If you go to back home, thinking in your mind ‘Ok, I we did our best. I ll take a b reak now,’ then we would have lost by then. This is a struggle! It’s an effort!” I left, and through the window, I watched as the posters, chants, and beats and protesters slowly faded away…but now, I was eager to spread the word

 

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