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Yesterday’s national action was the largest such day of coordinated campus protest since the Occupy Wall Street movement went viral last fall. But it was also the third early-March day of action to emerge from the national student movement that began with Occupy California two years earlier.

Occupy Wall Street has given the American student movement a boost, certainly. But in doing so it is merely returning a favor.

Yesterday student activists took to the Brooklyn Bridge in New York like Occupy Wall Street. They congregated in the park that was until recently home to Occupy Oakland, and marched from there to Morgan Stanley offices in San Francisco. They erected tents at UC Santa Cruz, and hung banners in the Massachusetts statehouse like last spring’s proto-OWS anti-Walker occupiers did in Madison. But they also took over administrators’ offices at DePaul University in Illinois and at UC San Diego. They also rallied for increased library hours at Harvard. They also held teach-ins at Ohio State, teach-outs at Berkeley, and a mock telethon for student debt at SUNY Buffalo.

And yesterday was no stand-alone event. Activists used Oakland’s Oscar Grant Plaza as the kickoff point for a 99-mile march to Sacramento, planning to arrive in time for a Monday occupation of the state capitol. That same day, students throughout New York will be descending on Albany for their own day of action.

#M1 has been described as a kickoff for the new semester, though there have been at least a dozen major campus actions in the US since January. It has been described as a reflection of an OWS “shift to the universities,” though OWS is as much the child of recent student activism as its parent. In reality, it was neither of those things. It was something quite different, and far more interesting.

It was just another day.

It’s four o’clock in the afternoon (ET), I’m back from teaching, and I’m picking up my liveblog of today’s national day of student action where I left off two hours ago. So far today we’ve seen one campus (UC Santa Cruz) essentially shut down by student protest, significant citywide marches several places, students rallying inside the Massachusetts statehouse, and other actions of various kinds at dozens of campuses from coast to coast.

The day is young, and there’s clearly a lot more to come. Stay tuned.

Friday Update: I’ve put together a summary/synthesis post on the day’s events here.

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11:00 pm | That’ll do it for me for tonight. More thoughts tomorrow.

9:54 pm | UC Santa Cruz activists have re-opened one of the two UCSC entrances to vehicular traffic.

9:43 pm | Some of the Berkeley/Oakland activists have been occupying a state building in San Francisco. They’re currently being removed from the building, issued citations, and released.

9:34 pm | The DePaul occupation has ended, with the occupiers regrouping for new actions tomorrow.

8:38 pm | Having dinner. DePaul occupation still ongoing, reports of occupation of chancellor’s office at UC San Diego. More in a bit.

7:31 pm | Reports coming in of police presence at the DePaul occupation. Situation still unclear, but one tweeter says the occupation was “partially broken up by cops.”

7:22 pm | Two big non-#M1 campus stories today. In Arizona, a state legislator withdrew his proposal to require (nearly) all students to pay at least $2000 a year in tuition out-of-pocket, regardless of financial need. And in Virginia, more than a dozen UVA students ended a 13-day hunger strike after the university administration acceded to many of their living wage demands.

6:58 pm | There’s now a livestream of the Berkeley/Oakland demonstration out front of the Morgan Stanley offices.

6:44 pm | Tweet from inside the DePaul occupation: “We’re staying. Come to 55 e jackson right away-we need your support!!!!”

6:37 pm | The Oakland marchers who aren’t going to Sacramento are heading to Morgan Stanley.

6:30 pm | The Student Labor Action Project is in the early stages of compiling a photo album of today’s actions. Check it out.

6:28 pm | Marchers are setting out from Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland, heading for … Sacramento, 99 miles away. Background here.

6:13 pm | DePaul admin building occupation is settling in. Occupier reports that they “just voted unanimously to stay in this room until we get a date and time for a public forum with the entire student body.” He says there are about 45 people there at the moment, and that the university’s president met with them, rejected their demands, and left.

6:09 pm |Via Twitter comes word of a Seattle march on the Gates Foundation headquarters. That’s the seventh city march (along with NYC, Philly, Boston, Oakland/Berkeley, DC, Montgomery) I’ve learned of today.

6:05 pm | The DC marchers delivered a statement of grievances and demands to an official at the Department of Education, who promised a response by a week from tomorrow. That action is apparently now over for the day.

5:49 pm | Students and supporters from around the Bay area have congregated in Oscar Grant Park, the longtime home of the Occupy Oakland encampment.

5:22 pm | We apparently have our first campus occupation of the afternoon. According to tweeter Brad Hamilton (who posted a photo), students at DePaul University in Chicago have occupied administrative offices there, demanding a tuition freeze at the Catholic institution.

5:01 pm | Actions today aren’t confined to the campuses and regions you’d expect, as this photo of a sizable rally at the Alabama state capitol demonstrates.

4:58 pm | Six tents and the shell of a geodesic dome are up on the UCSC campus, but it’s not clear whether an occupation is planned.

4:42 pm | DC marchers have arrived at the Department of Education, where they have been denied entry by police.

4:37 pm | Bad weather appears to have depressed turnout on both coasts earlier today, but rain seems to be ending both in Northern California and the NYC area at this hour.

4:33 pm | UC Santa Cruz remains almost entirely shut down as a result of students’ blockade of the campus’s two entrances. A motorist who drove through a crowd of protesters earlier today was “briefly detained” but apparently not arrested.

4:30 pm | Bay area march now heading from Berkeley to Oakland. Students who had been at the Boston state capitol are marching to Harvard.

4:25 pm | The American Association of University Professors has been tweeting about #M1 events all day, mentioning chapter support for actions at Hofstra, the U of Akron, Indiana U, Stetson U, Lincoln U, Delaware State, Marymount Manhattan, Bowie State, the U of Delaware, St. Catherine U, and the U of Rhode Island.

4:21 pm | Tweet of the afternoon, from San Francisco State: “Stuck in class and can’t walkout? Tweet out and #occupysfsu will come save you.”

4:18 pm | The Washington DC action is currently outside the offices of student loan corporation Sallie Mae. The founder of http://occupystudentdebt.com/ is speaking to the crowd.

4:15 pm | The New York City march has been on the move for several hours. Size is estimated at several hundred.

4:06 pm | In addition to the Boston march which has ended in the statehouse, there are citywide marches confirmed in New York, Philadelphia, the Bay area, and Washington DC so far.

4:02 pm | Students are inside the Massachusetts state capitol in Boston, hanging banners.

Today is a national day of action on American college campuses, a day of coordinated student protests, teach-ins, and occupations from coast to coast. I’ll be keeping tabs on the day’s events as they occur — scroll down to read everything from the beginning.

Note: Liveblogging continues here.

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4:05 pm | I’ve resumed liveblogging in a new post.

1:23 pm | Very quickly, before I go: about two hours ago, a man driving a Ford Mustang accelerated through a crowd of students and others who were blocking access to the UCSC campus, striking several of them. The driver and a passenger were removed from the scene by police, but it is not yet clear whether either has been arrested. An hour later, a heckler at the protest took a swing at a student.

1:17 pm | Actions are heating up across the nation, but I have to go up to campus to teach. Follow #M1 for all the latest, and I’ll tweet as I can from @studentactivism. Liveblogging will resume by about four o’clock Eastern, and continue through the afternoon and evening.

1:04 pm | As noted at the 10:43 am update, President Obama is scheduled to speak at a New Hampshire community college within the hour.

1:00 pm | PA banner drop reads “KEEPING STATE IN PENN STATE.”

12:41 pm | Hashtags for the day’s actions are proliferating, but #M1 is drawing an ever-growing share of the total traffic. That’s the tag to use, and follow.

12:30 pm | Students from New York City campuses are holding a roving rally on and around the campus of NYU. Journalist Allison Kilkenny is tweeting from the march.

12:04 pm | The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that UCSC student activists are setting up a “Tent University” not far from  about a hundred students are participating in a blockade of the campus’s two entrances. University officials and police have not yet interfered with either the blockade or the tents.

11:44 am | Update on Berkeley admin building: Daily Cal reporter Chloe Hunt tweets that one of two entrances has been locked from the inside, but the other is still in use.

11:34 am | UC Berkeley has apparently shut down its administration building preemptively this morning. Activists have wrapped the building in crime-scene tape.

11:19 am | Inside Higher Ed’s Allie Grasgreen has a piece up on today’s actions, and it’s a solid one. One place of disagreement: Grasgreen says 2012 has been a “down time” so far, but in fact there have been nine campus occupations since the start of the spring semester, and that’s not counting such actions as the UVA hunger strike for a living wage, which began thirteen days ago and is still going on.

11:06 am | UCSC has shut down several campus cafes for the day, and administrators are urging faculty “to make accommodations, as appropriate, for students who are unable, through no fault of their own, to attend class.” No move yet to shut down the campus completely.

10:48 am | Rain is expected in the Northeast, Northwest, and parts of the Deep South today. But Northern California and the NYC region should be clearing up by early afternoon.

10:43 am | As it happens, President Obama is going to be speaking on a college campus today — he’s scheduled to give a speech at Nashua Community College in New Hampshire at 1:40 pm.

10:29 am | The UCSC blockade isn’t a new tactic. Santa Cruz students closed campus entrances to vehicles during the March 4 national protests in  2010, forcing the university to shut down the campus for the day.

10:23 am | UC Santa Cruz website confirms that “the campus is currently blocked to vehicular traffic,” and has been for nearly three hours. Buses are being rerouted to drop passengers at university entrances.

10:12 am | I’m compiling a Twitter list of folks who will likely be livetweeting M1 events. If you have suggestions for additions, let me know.

10:04 am | Tweet says activists will blockade UC Berkeley’s administration building, California Hall, at 7:30 am Pacific Time.

9:55 am | Twitter hashtags to follow today are #M1 and #OccupyEducation.

9:37 am ET | The day’s first major development comes from California, where students at UC Santa Cruz rose before dawn to shut down vehicular access to the campus. Activists say they will allow emergency services, childcare and health workers, and residents of on-campus housing through their barricades.

For the last three years, the first week of March has seen a national day of co-ordinated student action in support of accessible, democratic higher education.

The 2010 day of action came as the nation’s most active year of student protest in decades was in full swing. Building on the California protests and occupations of Fall 2009, March 4 saw more than 120 actions in thirty-three states, and drew a level of media attention that was, for its time, astonishing. A year and a half before Occupy Wall Street was launched, eleven months before the Wisconsin statehouse occupation began, #March4 was for many the first sign that something big and new was bubbling up from the campuses.

March 2, 2011 was a bit smaller than March 4, 2010, at least in part because of administrators’ success in quieting student protest in California the previous fall. But it did produce three campus occupations — again, this is well before Occupy Wall Street — including a feminist protest in Pennsylvania, a statehouse solidarity occupation in Wisconsin, and the audacious (and chilling) occupation of the ledge of a building on the Berkeley campus. A week later, high school students staged their first nationally co-ordinated day of protest in recent memory, and the momentum of the campus movement hasn’t subsided since.

So what can we expect to see tomorrow, in the first day of campus action of the OWS era? The Nation has a piece up offering a taste of what’s brewing, while the coordinating group Occupy Colleges lists 64 campuses that they expect to be acting up in one way or another. In California, March 1 is the kickoff of a planned week of action that’s slated to culminate in a state capitol occupation, and there’s a lot of other interesting stuff in the pipeline.

Tomorrow is going to be  a very interesting day.

Evening Update | As I reported last week, there have been 37 campus occupations in the US and Canada so far this academic year. (That’s not protests, occupations.) It’s safe to say that number will be higher by Friday. Huffington Post also has a good overview of what’s in store (posted yesterday).

March 1 Morning Update | I’ll be liveblogging the day’s events here.

A tuition fee protest is gaining momentum in Quebec this week, with organizers claiming that more than fifty thousand students are now participating in an ongoing student strike. Students have taken to the streets of Montreal several times this week, with one group shutting down a major city bridge at the start of rush hour this afternoon. Riot police dispersed the protesters with pepper spray, re-opening the span after twenty minutes. The size of today’s main march has been estimated at five thousand.

The students are mobilizing against planned annual fee hikes that would raise annual tuition from $2168 to $3793 over the next five years.

The anti-hike protests are controversial in some quarters, as Quebec’s tuition rates are far below the national average. But as I noted on Twitter a few minutes ago, the idea that the average tuition rate is the right tuition rate is incredibly pernicious. If you start from the premise that every tuition rate below some “average” benchmark should properly be raised, then each tuition increase justifies the next one.

Or, to put it another way…

More on the Quebec protests soon.

About This Blog

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StudentActivism.net is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

To contact Angus, click here. For more about him, check out AngusJohnston.com.

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