"March in March" event cut short for SMC AS
On Monday, the Associated Students took a trip to Sacramento to take part in “March in March” a yearly event meant to bring students together behind a cause. However, the AS directors returned home early as a disciplinary action, due to their participation in an impromptu student-led march that was not in their plans for the day. This year, the “March in March” event was supposed to consist of visits with state legislators in place of an actual march.
Because they were not authorized to participate in a march in the first place, Associate Dean of Student Life Sonali Bridges, who declined comment and was present at the event as the students' adviser and monitor, moved up their return flight six hours earlier than scheduled. As a result, the group returned to Los Angeles at 1 p.m. instead of at 7 p.m., as was originally planned.
AS President Ali Khan said he decided to go to the march because he had previously agreed to be there as a ‘peacekeeper’. According to Director of Community Relations Yana Demeshko, peacekeepers “just look around people, notice conflicts, try to calm people down without being physical.”
Khan said the decision to participate in the march was made under last minute circumstances and was poorly thought out. “It was definitely a lapse of better judgement on our end,” he said. “We could have all stopped and asked [Bridges] what was going on, and why we shouldn’t go. But because of the rush and the job responsibility that we sort of threw ourselves into, we just walked away without consulting her first.”
According to Khan, it was unclear that the march could not be participated in. “It was perceived as, we were defying authority; That was not the case,” Khan said. “Had we known about the college policy violation, we of course would have taken more time, tried to communicate better with [Bridges].”
The AS left before they were able to visit state legislators, which was the initial purpose of the event. Although they returned before they could fill their roles as Santa Monica College’s representatives, the rest of the schools still participated in the event.
“[It was] disappointing. Ethically, you feel like you have not done the job or responsibility you were elected to do,” said Khan. “So, I mean, when you have 30,000 students you represent and then two million across the state...it not only felt like we had let them down, but that SMC had let them down.”
Even though the AS directors were taken home as disciplinary action for their decision to attend the march, their participation in the march may not have been illegal in the first place.
Demeshko clarified that permits and liability insurance are only needed when the streets are closing down in lieu of large crowds. Since the AS directors who marched stayed away from the roads, they did not technically participate in something illegal.
The budget for the trip was $5,000, approved at the February 18 weekly AS board meeting.