San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza hosted a gathering of several hundred protesters calling on California to better fund education and reduce student debt.

“Tax the rich,” the crowd chanted again and again, led by speakers on a platform strung with a banner advocating a “Millionaire’s Tax” ballot initiative that would raise taxes on California’s wealthiest citizens.

The rally was part of the larger National Day of Action to Defend the Right to Education held throughout the country today, as several groups from around San Francisco converged for the day-concluding event.

Alex Schmaus, a student in City College of San Francisco and a participant in “Occupy CCSF,” told the crowd that he had accumulated $27,000 in debt as a student at SFSU but didn’t earn a degree, and now collection agencies were threatening to garnish his paychecks.

Schmaus drew connections between the campaign for better funding for higher education and some of the larger goals of the Occupy movement, including more access to housing and sending less people to prisons.

Students from Mission High School in San Francisco were also invited onto the stage to speak, wondering what opportunities would be available if they were priced out of being able to attend college, and how they could give back to the world without access to an education.

“The way things are going we’re going to have only private universities, we’re not going to have public universities,” Terence Yancey, 26, a philosophy major at San Francisco State University told the crowd.

Yancey said that he had come over with a larger group from SFSU, which held a rally and march earlier this afternoon. But part of his group had split off to go to Oakland, where some protesters were gearing up for a four-day march to Sacramento.

Called the “99 Mile March,” the demonstrators plan to make stops in San Pablo, Vallejo, Vacaville and Davis before arriving in Sacramento Monday morning for a massive convergence planned at the state Capitol.

Yancey said he would be joining the march on its second day in San Pablo, and while a core group would be marching all the way from Oakland to Sacramento, others would join along the way.

Another group came to Civic Center Plaza from the nearby California State Office Building at 455 Golden Gate Ave. after having a teach-in there this afternoon.

But about a dozen remained behind to continue occupying the state building even as the office workers went home for the day.

At around 6:30 p.m. that contingent of occupiers were escorted out of the building by officers and most appeared to be cited and released.

Scott Morris, Bay City News

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