There were times at yesterday’s meeting when it was uncertain whether the behavior of police and protesters would result in serious injury or death.
By the end of the day, at least 10 students and two unidentified demonstrators were arrested for obstructing order. Furthermore, a UC police officer un-holstered his sidearm when a UC Merced student reportedly assaulted the deputy with a deadly weapon.
No UCSB students were detained, but seven UC Berkeley students and one student each from UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Merced and Peralta Community College were apprehended.
At the height of protests, nearly 300 people crowded the common areas outside of the University of California, San Francisco Mission Bay Community Center while the Regents discussed tuition increases, pension plans and financial aid modifications inside.
While some protestors charged police positions, were pepper sprayed and beaten with clubs, other demonstrators rallied peacefully and merely raised the volume of their voices as they chanted slogans, including:
“Hey Regents, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side,” “Our backs will break if you raise our fees by eight,” “SOS — Save Our Schools” and “Fee hikes have got to go, hey, hey, ho, ho.”
Unrest Boils Over
Three officers were injured while subduing angry protesters, according to UC San Francisco Chief of Police Pamela Roskowski. Chaos first erupted around 9:15 a.m., she said, when students outside the meeting pushed through metal barricades and charged a group of campus and city police officers, intent upon storming inside the meeting. One officer was hurt in the process as the barricades came down.
Officers administered the first round of paper spray minutes later and prevented protesters from entering the building, blocking all accesses with outstretched batons.
The next three or four hours then turned into a tense hold-out between police and protestors. Time after time, dozens of protestors linked arms together in solidarity, were pepper sprayed into submission by authorities, fell back in the lines to recover and were replaced by a fresh wave of dissidents.
“Fifteen people were exposed to pepper spray in lieu of using a weapon,” Roskowski said. “The officers conducted themselves really well — they had been rushed, barricades were used to injure the officers, officers pepper-sprayed to defend themselves.”
However, Associated Students President Paul Monge-Rodriguez, a fourth-year global studies and sociology major, said authorities resorted to unnecessarily drastic measures to suppress the crowd.
“Police are too quick to escalate to risky tactics,” he said. “They could have spoken to the student leaders. Instead, they jumped to chemical means of suppression.”
Pasadena City College student Victor Mendez said police treated him in an unjustified violent manner.
“Fucking cops maced me and beat the shit out of me,” Mendez said. “We’re not just making some symbolic gesture — we’re here to say we won’t accept student fees.”
Student protesters administered aid to their temporarily incapacitated comrades throughout the day, using water with Maalox, milk and various feminine hygiene products to counter the sting of pepper spray.
UC Merced student Emily Hallinan, a fourth-year psychology major, set up a first aid station for students who were hit with pepper spray.
“I think it’s disgusting that police would hurt unarmed students,” Hallinan said. “Nobody was trying to hurt anybody aside from the police. … I came with first aid supplies just in case things got out of hand, and they have.”
According to Roskowski, a crowd of protesters gathered at the community center parking lot around 10 a.m. and attempted to rush past a single police officer, Officer Kemper, to access one of the building’s entry points. Another group of students assembled at the garage before the meeting commenced around 8:45 a.m. to block Regents’ access to the building.
The officer was pushed and surrounded by a group of over a dozen, then dropped of his baton. A student then allegedly picked up the baton and struck Officer Kemper with his own weapon, although online video evidence suggests that the officer drew his weapon of his own accord.
However, according to Chief Roskowski, Officer Kemper was acting out of self defense.
“[He] drew his [sidearm] to protect himself,” Roskowski said. “It appears in my view that the officer showed great restraint.”
Kemper then allegedly fell to his feet and came back up with his gun in hand. He backed away from the students as he showed his weapon to the crowd.
“Take his gun,” the crowd proceeded to chant as students caught sight of the raised weapon.
The officer eventually called for backup and was joined by almost 10 colleagues who proceeded to pepper spray the crowd.
Elysse Madarang, a third-year global studies major at UCSB, said the Regents and law enforcement have created a tense standoff between students and themselves by responding with force to the student protest.
“It’s really ridiculous that students feel like this is the only way for them to be heard, that they should resort to this,” Madarang said. “We’re not here to fight, we just want to be heard.”