Jay Espinoza is happy with Denver’s turnout for this past weekend’s US Uncut national day of action. Some people “drove upwards of [an] hour to make it to the protest,” he tells me.
Like the other US Uncut cells, the group presented a fake check for $2.7 billion—in this case to a Wells Fargo bank manager—in order to represent the amount Wells Fargo owes in taxes to the United States. And the story ends as it ended for all the other US Uncut chapters, according to Espinoza. “The manager…told me that they did not care for our cause and we were told to leave.”
This is how US Uncut has chosen to protest the austerity measures handed down from Washington, but the group is not alone in that resistance. As in the UK, students have been a source of thriving activism, a reality that counters the popular narrative that anyone younger than 50 is somehow an apathetic, non-contributing zero.
In California, 15,000 students marched in a rally opposing potential budget cuts. California is facing austerity measures that could result in losses between $750 million and $1 billion.
Today, in New Haven, Connecticut, students from Wilbur Cross High School are planning to stage a protest against budget cuts, which could result in sixty teachers, twenty pre-school teachers and 110 other school staff being laid off.
Across Baltimore County, high school students rallied in Towson on Monday night to oppose cuts that could also result in the loss of teachers. Students there used Facebook to organize and left messages of solidarity on the event page.
“I can’t believe this is happening. I feel like I need to do something,” said student Saskia Matthews.
"What we’re saying is we’re students. Listen to us, we know what we need and what we don’t need."- Saskia Matthews
“We just care about our teachers, and we want a good education,” said student Avery Thomas.
Hundreds of Pennsylvania students voiced their opposition to Governor Corbett’s draconian measures. If Corbett refuses to raise taxes on companies drilling for natural gas, and the state makes up for the cuts by raising education fees, tuition will jump up by a whopping $2,200 next year.
If Corbett’s proposed education cuts become law, Daran Carlin-Weber said he might face a very different future. The 19-year-old sophomore from Sayre, a small town of 5,400 near the New York state line, is studying animation at Edinboro University. He hopes to eventually work for The Cartoon Network.
“If this budget goes through, there’s no way I will be able to afford school,” said Carlin-Weber. “I’ll go home and work at KFC.”
More than 150 students in Michigan hit the streets to protest proposed cuts to higher education. In that state, Gov. Rick Snyder is set to slash university funding by $42 million.
Stefan Johnson, 34, a master’s student studying anthropology at MSU, said he feared the proposed cuts would force universities to hike tuition next year.
"It’s going to make education more untenable," Johnson said. "It’s already too expensive as it is. "
What was described as “throngs” of students descended on Nevada’s capital city to demonstrate against Gov. Brian Sandoval’s cuts. At least 1,500 students, making up “one of the largest rallies in Carson City history,” showed up to demand an end to austerity.
"In my 10 years as a legislator, I’ve never seen anything like this," Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, told students at a midday rally. "We’ve made cuts in the past wondering, ‘Where are the people?’ The apathy is gone."
Students at Arizona universities rallied to oppose $235 million in cuts to their universities’ budgets, and a labor-student coalition in Florida led about 300 protesters through the streets to protest Gov. Scott’s proposal to cut 5 to 10 percent (about $3 billion) from public education.
People often ask me why students in the US haven’t organized a massive resistance like the one we’re witnessing in the UK. My answer to that is there is resistance in this country. It isn’t centralized and overwhelming… yet, but it is most definitely rising to the surface and beginning to spill over.