Police got serious on the University of California protesters this morning, pulling out the pepper spray, batons, and even a gun on the 300+ students and faculty participating in the demonstration against a proposed 8 percent student fee hike and retirement plan changes.
The protest took place outside the UC Board of Regents meeting at the Mission Bay campus, where police barricaded the entrance to the building. When protesters attempted to cross the barricade, police pushed back by using their clubs on students not moving fast enough and showering the crowd with pepper spray to disperse them. According to a UC spokeswoman, 16 people were arrested on charges including assault on an officer and resisting arrest.
“They didn’t give people a chance to leave. We don’t have anything to fight back with,” said Maria Belman, a UC Berkeley student who got pepper spray in her eye.
“It was an angry, unruly and aggressive crowd,” UCSF police Chief Pamela Roskowski said at a midday news conference after the protests had died down.
Three officers were injured, including one who suffered a cut to his arm while a protester was attempting to use a barricade as a weapon, Roskowski said. No one was hospitalized.
Of those arrested, 11 are students, including seven UC Berkeley students, one from UC Davis, one from UC Santa Cruz, one Petaluma Community College student, and a UC Merced student, Roskowski said.
Christine Byon, communications director for the U.C. Students Association, told SFWeekly that the level of violence “is getting to the point where it’s kind of scary”. She said she was pepper-sprayed along with other protesters and also witnessed an officer pull out his gun and point it at someone. Fortunately, so did KTVU, and you can watch it happen right here.
After the incident, two protesters approached the cop that pulled the gun and tried to convince him to go home. As you can see in the video above, recorded by “k9sound”, one of the protesters continues to speak to the non-responsive cop, telling him “You should tell the officer in charge that you want to go home… because what you just did was ridiculous and you know it… There’s plenty of police… You just pulled a gun out on our people… I’m serious, I’m talking to you person to person right now. You should go home.”
Campus police chief Pamela Roskowski said the officer drew his gun in self-defense. “It was an angry and unruly and aggressive crowd,” Roskowski said. “He had drawn his weapon to protect himself. He was very concerned about his safety.”
Claudia Magana, president of the statewide UC Student Association told the Board of Regents “It’s very sad to see how the UC students are being treated outside,” she said “They are not here to hurt you.”
Victor Mendez, a student at Pasadena City College, was one of those sprayed as he pushed the barricades near the front of the crowd. He was protesting fee increases in solidarity with state university and UC students.
“The raises are just going to keep happening, and public education is going to be destroyed,” he said.
Inside the regents’ meeting, several students from UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz, and UCLA spoke during the public comment period about how fee hikes are impacting their campuses.
“Our campus is experiencing increases in unexpected ways – for example, student shoplifting so people can have food to go to school,” said Jasmine Hill, undergraduate student body president at UCLA.
UC President Mark Yudof said fee increases are necessary to keep the universities running.
“We have $340 million of hardcore costs,” he said at this morning’s meeting. “You just can’t dance around them.”
Bay City News contributed to this report