The flyer from SMC Students Against Budget Cuts was impressive: A cartoon of the Guv all buffed up, standing behind a podium bearing the California state seal, while brandishing a gun. Out of the weapon's viewfinder poured the words: Hasta la Vista Education!!! Schwarzenegger's new budget will slice out $386 million from the Cal State System and $483 million from California's Community Colleges. Competitive Cal Grants – gone. Classes for 50,000 students applying to community colleges won't get their classes.

Running late last Sunday, I sped out of Hollywood around noon toward Santa Monica. A protest march would be starting to assemble just about now at the corner of Pico and Main. An hour later, they were going to March “up Main Street” to the governor's private office on 3110 Main Street.

(Photo by Andrea Zeppelli)

In Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Boulevard squeezed down to one line due to an art fair and road construction. It was about 95 degrees outside, and traffic was sailing along at about five miles per hour.

This gave me time to re-check the flyer to discover that the march was assembling at 11 a.m., not noon. Okay, I figured. These things never stick to schedule. It took 20 minutes to cross Wilshire Boulevard.

By the time I got to Pico and Main, there wasn't a protester in sight. Just another balmy day in paradise. I drove up “up Main street” hoping I might catch them in transit. Main Street took me past Rand Corporation and the civic center's wide boulevards and the street number wasn't matching at all. It's a long way up to 3110. As I kept going north, Main Street disappeared, and I was deposited onto Second Street, now averaging about two miles per hour. Deciding to high tale it on foot, I parked in the lot just north of Santa Monica Boulevard. I took another 15 minutes to find a space on the 6th level.

Ran out into a blast of sunlight. I sort of knew Main Street doesn't exist that far north, but was hoping for the best. A security guard told me I needed to be back down below Colorado Boulevard. I started running. Ten minutes later, I was back at Pico and Main, heaving for breath. There were still no protesters.

So they wrote “up Main street” when they really meant “down Main street.”

Hiked south as fast as I could. There was a young guy with book bag. He looked like a student.

“Are you part of the student protest,” I asked? He removed an earplug and said he didn't know what I was talking about.

Found 3110, a pleasant looking courtyard that looked nothing like any governor's office. It was deserted. Not even a security guard. Stepped inside a lobby containing a wall mural – there he was, a cartoon of the Guv all buffed up holding a gun. “Hasta la vista, baby” Yep, this is the place. Got in the elevator, pushed the 3rd Floor button. Nothing happened. A sign said to see security for Third Floor access. Stepped back outside. Around the corner came a chubby guy in a red USC sweatshirt, silver sunglasses and a security badge.

“Were there any student protestors here,” I asked.

“They left about 20 minutes ago,” he said, pointing south. They headed that way.

I charged further down Main Street. Normal, calm, happy people were dining in sidewalk cafes. I decided to check the Rose Cafe. A woman with a large camera sat by herself. She had a sign that said “event photographer.”

“Were you at the student protests?” I asked.

“Maybe that was yesterday,” she said, after staring blankly.

I asked the hostess if she'd seen any students from a protest march come through the cafe.

“I've been too busy to check who comes in and out,” she replied.

Had an apple cider at the King's Head and drove home, figuring I'd done my part for journalism this week.

Found the email from Ryan Zim, who'd organized the event. I gave him a call.

“How'd it go?” I asked.

“There were about 50 people,” he said. We were at Pico and Main from 11 until 12:30. We had picket signs and megaphones. We took a lot pictures of us protesting and stuff.”

(Photo by Andrea Zeppelli)

Did you meet any hostility, I asked.

“Not much hostility – every once in a while from some people, mostly transients and Venice kids. They'd yell, 'I didn't get a goddamn education, so fuck you.' That was about it. There was a lot of support. A lot of people honking. When we passed the Farmers' Market on Main Street, some more people joined us. We passed out letters for people to sign.

“How many signatures did you get?”

Ryan put me on the phone to his friend, Miguel Cabrera, who came up from Oceanside to help out.

What happened after you left the governor's office, I asked.

“Me and my friends got hungry,” Miguel reported. So we went to the pizza place. As soon as we went in, they started moving south.”

“What kind of pizza?” I asked, feeling some detail wouldn't hurt.

“Cheese tomato and onion. Pretty excellent.”

For the record, the Pizza place was named Dagwoods.

Miguel added that the Santa Monica police provided a kind of informal escort – that they were very helpful.

I put in call to another organizer, Rob Eukovich – a recent USC grad whose brother attends community college. “In general, I think it's an issue that's important,” Rob said. I asked how many signatures he'd gathered.

“Got a few, I'm not sure how many. I myself had at least 10 people who stopped and like, oh yes, 10 people is still cool.”

LA Weekly