The potential for rain and gray skies on a November afternoon did not discourage about 200 people from gathering to participate in the nationwide Million Student March.
Chants rose from students and faculty gathered around the Bell Tower Thursday demanding free education and an end to capitalism. The movement demands free college tuition, cancellation of all student debt and a $15 minimum wage for all university workers.
Organizers passed out red signs calling for an increased minimum wage. Others arrived with their own homemade signs with slogans like “Burn the Debt,” “Degrees Not Debt” and “Fight for a Debt Free Future.”
Isabella Jayme, president of Temple Socialists and junior communications major, stood above the crowd, megaphone in hand, asking them what they would do if they had more money due to less student debt.
Several protesters who spoke to the crowd demanded that money from the university be focused on students, faculty and department expansions, not construction to expand campus. Speakers also called for Chairman of the Board of Trustees Patrick O’Connor to step down or cease representing Bill Cosby in court.
The arrival of drummers at around 3:10 p.m. signaled the time to march to Sullivan Hall. Officers from both Temple and Philadelphia Police stood in front of the entrance, with a thin barricade of bikes constructed at the base of the staircase. The protesters made no attempt to get past, gathering on the sidewalk instead.
Captain Jeff Chapman, security operations and special events for Campus Safety Services, said protesters are never allowed into buildings.
“You don’t know what their intentions are,” he said. “A simple protest could end up being a sit-in.”
Faye, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts who declined to reveal a last name or major, read a letter detailing specific demands for Theobald and the Board of Trustees.
Bill Bergman, special assistant to the president, stood behind the barricade to receive the letter.
Lynes and Jayme both said up until this moment President Theobald had been refusing 15Now’s letters. He had also failed to meet with organizers at 15Now for months, Lynes said, who is also an organizer for the coalition.
After the letter drop, the protesters flooded the southbound lanes of Broad Street and marched to City Hall, joined by pedestrians as they went.
At City Hall, similar protesters from the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel joined the crowd, swelling their ranks to almost 400. At first they stood silently, until a single drummer began tapping out a rhythm, which slowly grew into a rumbling as the other members of the troupe joined. Moments later, protesters began to chant “Absolution, Revolution.”
Several people—combining all of their megaphones and portable speakers—delivered speeches about issues ranging from the fear of student debt as a high school student, to expressing solidarity with the protesters in Missouri.
“This is great, this is beautiful,” Philip Gregory, a sophomore English major at Temple, told the crowd. “The situation in Missouri is not so different from Temple.”
Gregory called upon Temple football players to use their high-profile status as athletes to help demand change.
“We need to hit the money, hit the f—-ing wallet,” he said.
Jayme said she believed the march was a success, adding she hoped the university would take immediate action towards investing in the community, removing O’Connor and respecting the rights of adjunct faculty.
“You have to see that it’s all important, and it’s all connected,” she said.
Julie Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChristieJules.