Thousands of community college students and staff members marched through downtown Los Angeles on Friday to protest looming budget cuts that they say will hurt the neediest of college students.
Protest organizers said nearly 4,000 turned out for the midday rally in Pershing Square and marched past the state office building on Spring Street. The LAPD, which guided the group through the streets, declined to provide a crowd estimate.
"One of the things we keep hearing is, you can't organize community college students because they're too transient. We're showing these students absolutely care about their education and will go to great lengths to be sure it continues," said Warren Furutani, president of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees.
Students wore T-shirts proclaiming "Keep the Doors Open," a reference to the historic role of community colleges as a passageway to higher education and more prosperous lives.
"We need to maintain the promise that was made after World War II, and show that working-class people are smart too," said state Sen. Richard Alarcon. "We should rejuvenate community colleges, not cut them," he told the crowd.
Many of the students attacked Gov. Gray Davis for proposing budget cuts. "Davis says cut back, we say fight back," a group of Los Angeles Southwest College students chanted.
Because of a shortfall in tax revenues, Davis had asked for $288 million in cuts to the community colleges. The Legislature passed a less-severe $141-million cut.
The governor's budget for next fiscal year proposes $404 million in cuts, a 6.2% reduction for the state's 108 community colleges.
The colleges have already cut courses, services and staff. Los Angeles City College cut 300 courses this semester. Pasadena City College will offer only one summer session this year instead of the usual two, said spokesman Chuck Champlin.