West County got a taste of the Occupy movement Friday, but not a prolonged one. A group of about 100 people — UC Berkeley faculty, students and members of the Occupy movement —stopped for lunch in Fernandez Park in Pinole, and then marched through Hercules, on a leg of their journey to Sacramento to protest cuts in education and other areas.
The bulk of the crowd focused their cause on education. An oversized pencil with the message, "Kids R No. 1 Tax the Rich to Teach the Children" led the post-lunch march out of Pinole and into Hercules.
The crowd's presence appeared to cause no disruption, other than slowing traffic on San Pablo Avenue on the way out of town. A Pinole police car drove slowly in front of the crowd as they walked toward Hercules. Some drivers honked their horns, either in support or to make protests of their own. California Highway Patrol cars also drove through the Old Town area.
The marchers moved toward Hercules and Rodeo, with their sights on camping overnight Friday in Vallejo.
Maureen Miller, who teaches medieval history at UC Berkeley, said she wouldn't walk all the way to the state capital, but could join the protest there on March 5.
"I'm here to support restoring funding to public education at all levels, but particularly to public higher education," Miller said. "That's what I've devoted my life to, and we're hoping people in the state legislature will hear us. We wanted to come out and support these students who are marching and to show solidarity with them. We're very concerned about the higher costs that our students are paying. Many of them now are working extra jobs, they're having difficulty attending to their studies."
She also is concerned about faculty members.
"We're losing faculty members," Miller said. "We're concerned about being able to support their families and to be able to retire. We've hung in their through furloughs and all sorts of deterioration in working conditions and new obligatory payments into the pension system."
With no assigned leader, or apparent formal organization, the march attracted people with more than education funding in mind.
A man who identified himself as "Wildabeast" said he is from Massachusetts and had camped at the Occupy Boston site before is was dismantled. He originally protested about cuts in the Boston subway system but said he opposes cuts in education and other services.
"My objective is to carry an upside-down (American) flag all the way and to protest cuts" Wildabeast said. "I found happiness in that tent (in Boston) and I haven't had it since. I'm trying to get it back."
The group planned to camp overnight Friday on Holly Street in Vallejo.
Share your thoughts and take our poll below.