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With photo.

Students rage over CUNY budget cuts

By Eric M. Weiss, Staff Reporter

Students clashed with police last week in two demonstrations against proposed state and city budget cuts to the city's university system.

The demonstrations included a 48-hour hunger strike designed to call attention to the higher tuition and larger classes the cuts would mean.

"I can't say I'm against what the students do if it is peaceful," said Leo A. Corbie, president of Bronx Community College. "While I don't want them to be hurt, I understand their motivation."

Police arrested 43 of the hunger strikers Tuesday night after they refused to leave a City College building in Harlem. They were charged with criminal trespass and spent the night in jail.

Two protesters were issued summonses Wednesday for disorderly conduct following an impromptu midnight march through upper Manhattan that ended in a confrontation with police.

Chanting, "Their streets? Our streets!" the students took to the rain-slicked streets after being forced by police from the City College student center at 138th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.

"We had nowhere to go," said Ali Perez, 30, a prelaw student at Bronx Community College who joined the hunger strike. "We saw many students who were ready to do anything. We decided to march."

Nearly 200 marchers paraded through Harlem, blocking traffic as residents in bathrobes peered from windows and drivers honked their horns .

When the students arrived at the Columbia University gate at 116th Street and Broadway, they were met by a line of police in riot helmets. The students tried to storm an 8-foot-wide gate blocked by four officers, who repelled them, knocking three to the ground.

"This is intimidation by the police to try to make us afraid about taking other steps," Perez said.

While they ended the hunger strike Thursday afternoon, student leaders did not rule out future actions to influence the budget process in Albany and City Hall.

New York state has been operating without a budget since April 1 and negotiations are stalled. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is scheduled to announce his next budget draft later this month.

A demonstration against the proposed state cuts in education, transit and social services is being planned for Wednesday. Organized by high school students, the march is to begin at 1 p.m. at Father Gigante Plaza near St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church on Tiffany Street in Hunts Point.

Said Antonion Centeno, 17, a march organizer, "If we don't make a difference now, we may make a difference later. We still want to have our say."

The Bronx Beat, April 17, 1995