Students protesting education cuts vow to face arrest


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The Capitol building in Sacramento officially closed at 6 p.m., but demonstrators refused to budge from their positions. Students have been protesting the continued cuts to education, which have led to multiple tuition hikes.

Officers from the Sacramento Police Department and the California Highway Patrol were prepared to move in. Many were dressed in full riot gear in case things got out of control.

Thousands of students have rallied to express their anger toward lawmakers for what they call a dis-investment in higher education. They've seen tuition hikes skyrocket every year, sometimes every semester, yet they get fewer classes, prolonging graduation dates and adding to their student loan debt.

Multiple groups are participating in the education protests, which began Friday, including many students from California's public universities and community colleges.

Two groups, Refund California and Occupy Education, have been inside the Capitol building since about 1 p.m. Monday, hoping to disrupt business. The crowds have been given several dispersal orders.

One arrest has been made so far outside, CHP said. The arrest was for possession of a switchblade.

Many demonstrators said they didn't come all this way only to be told to leave. "It could mean arrest. Those people are willing to risk arrest," said Jennifer Tucker, a UC Berkeley graduate student.

"I believe in a California in which higher education is inclusive and excellent and it's not going to happen on the track that we're on right now. It requires collective political action and I'm willing to take that risk," Tucker said.

The state budget has been battered by the recession, forcing leaders to cut funding to higher education for years. Democrats say since they've had no Republican support for raising taxes, slashing was the only option to balance the budget.

Sen. President Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said: "I have participated in making billions of dollars of cuts to higher education and I've hated every minute of it."

Using their majority vote powers, Democrats vow to back Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative to make textbooks cheaper and to pass the Middle Class Scholarship plan, which gives a two-thirds tuition break to certain students.

Republicans say higher taxes are unnecessary because there's enough money to fund education.

"We're also funding high speed rail at a time when that should not be a priority. We should be focusing on education," said Assm. Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa.

Brown said in a statement Monday that the protests only illustrate the need for California voters to approve his tax increase on high-wage earners and the sales tax.

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