Protestors Seek Justice for CUNY

Hundreds of City College students and faculty members held picket signs up high, screamed into the overcast air, and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed tuition increases and budget cuts on Sunday.

“They say, ‘Cut that’, we say, ‘Fight back’,” was yelled in unison in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge on March 13. Car horns and thumbs­ups from drivers followed the passionate protesters along the way to Brooklyn Borough Hall.

In January, Governor Cuomo requested to cut half a billiondollars from the City University and extend a plan that would increase tuition by $300 each year for five years. This plan has been in effect since 2011. Students came out from colleges all across the city in opposition to this proposal. Accompanied by the University Student Senate and Professional Staff Congress CUNY, the group took control of the Brooklyn Bridge Sunday afternoon to spread a message loud and clear.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“It’s clear that this governor has a vendetta against CUNY for whatever reason,” Tim Donnelly, Brooklyn College CLAS student government president said. Donnelly fought for Brooklyn College and all of the City University in opposing Cuomo on Sunday. “It would be one thing to not give any more money to CUNY, but to cut money from CUNY is ridiculous.”

Before marching over the bridge, the University Student Senate set up a stage outside City Hall Park, where loud and passionate speakers voiced their opinions.

“It’s silly, ridiculous, unbelievable to talk about a $485 million cut from the state,” Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer yelled to a crowd that screamed even louder back at her. “It will hurt real people.”

Those real people include college graduates that pay their tuition, taxes, and living costs, and then continue giving to the state economy when entering the job market. According to Diana Richardson, New York State assembly member, that is the backwardness of the state’s refusal to invest in its schools.

A thick vein stretched out on the side of Richardson’s neck as she screamed to the shouting crowd, “We should not even be talking about a $485 million cut to CUNY, as far as I’m concerned, we need to be talking about investing more into CUNY.”

On June 1, 1976, the Board of Higher Education imposed tuition on the previously free City University of New York. Since then, protesters have reacted against budget cuts and tuition hikes. In 2011, students objected the same plan to raise tuition periodically for five years, as is being proposed for extensionnow.

At 12 p.m. an organized small group of people stood and looked around outside City HaOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAll Park. The scene quickly evolved once the crowd multiplied into a group of students and faculty covering the sidewalk, wearing representative garments for their schools.

A tiny stage next to a line of New York police officers turned into a centerpiece for the protest, showcasing a group of loud activists spreading their ideas to a rambunctious crowd.

Speaker after speaker, the crowd grew and got louder until it was time to storm the Brooklyn Bridge. Led by a wide University Student Senate banner and a scooter­riding young proponent of freezing tuition, a line of protesters as long as a city block took control of the bridge.

The marchers started off staying on the right side of the walkway, but soon took over the entire span of the space as passersby stared with unwavering attention. Some spectators could even be seen with informational pamphlets in their hands regarding the cause.

Among the protesters was David Pecoraro, 56, a former vicechair for the Student Senate who has been involved with tuition issues since the 1980s. He voiced his strong opinions about Governor Cuomo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“I would sooner vote for my cat,” Pecoraro said.

When the marchers reached the Brooklyn side of the bridge, they were greeted by a wall of New York police officers that escorted them into the street. Down the stairs of the bridge in between two close ­together stone walls, the chants of the protesters echoed like a thunderstorm into Brooklyn and caught the attention of bystanders in Cadman Plaza Park.

IMG_1749Walking alongside police officers that were either stone­faced or smiling, this long line of marchers let everybody in the area hear their message, all the way to Borough Hall. The steps of Borough Hall were quickly taken over by the mob of screaming oppositionists, holding up colorful banners and signs. The group on the steps was an illustration of people from colleges all across the city and state coming together for a common cause.

“I feel that it was good to have a community of CUNY students from different schools come together,” Joseph Delacruz, a Brooklyn College student said at the steps of Borough Hall. “Thatway, the governor has an understanding that this is a unified effort to reject his proposal.”

After about two and a half hours, the fuse burned out and the protesters dispersed into the Brooklyn streets.

Deputy Borough President of Brooklyn, Diana Reyna had a few parting words, “Make sure you’re fighting for your future, and the future of our children, you’re fighting for the access to education…preparing our workforce of the future.”

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