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Auburn 99% group rallies for higher-education reform

Downtown Auburn peaceful protest is in advance of Occupy the Capitol on Monday
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - An Auburn rally for higher education weathered the storm Thursday as participants wielded signs and stood in the rain in support of reforms. Members of the Auburn-based Placer 99% group estimated that as many as 17 people joined the rally at the Downtown Clocktower during a shower-filled afternoon. Samantha Shattuck, an Auburn resident and recent University of California, Santa Cruz graduate, said the University of California Board of Regents is taking advantage of the budget crisis to further a goal of privatizing education. That has resulted in 330 percent increases in fees since 2000 and massive student debt. “We’re in very desperate times while students are taking on debt and not finding jobs,” Shattuck said. “It’s important for people to realize what is happening is that we’re in a change in priorities that’s putting the burden on students.” Signs wielded by participants bore slogans like: “Education should give you freedom not slavery” and “Education costs money but so does ignorance.” Shattuck said concerns are becoming more widespread as student-loan debt in the U.S. exceeds credit-card debt. A Placer 99% member, Shattuck said the rain may have kept some people away but organizers were adamant about going ahead to help draw attention to the drive for education reform and an Occupy the Capitol rally Monday in Sacramento. “We’re just happy people are showing up out here and being out in the weather demonstrates how dedicated we are,” Shattuck said. The Sacramento rally starts with a march from Southside Park at 10 a.m. Monday. The rally at the Capitol starts at 11 a.m. Scott Johnson, another rally participant Thursday, said he’s particularly concerned about he loss of $23 billion in pension funds for university workers by college authorities. “These are crimes that should be prosecuted, in my opinion,” Johnson said. The 99% group is an offshoot of the Occupy Auburn protest last fall and the Occupy Wall Street movement that has been active on a nationwide basis since the summer. In Auburn, the 99% group holds meetings every Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. at the Little Belgium Deli in Downtown Auburn. Among the issues it is focusing on are supporting the local economy, taking money out of politics and Wall Street accountability. Shattuck said Thursday’s rally was held to coincide with other events taking place at colleges and universities around the state called a Day of Action. “This will help build momentum for the March 5 march on the Capitol,” she said.