A Board of Trustees meeting at Santa Monica City College turned chaotic on Tuesday night whenprotesting students were pepper sprayed, indoors, by police trying to control the unruly crowd. Among those caught in fracas was a four-year-old girl who was at the protest with her family and was reportedly hit in the face by the pepper spray.
The college made national news recently when it announced a new tuition plan that would raise the prices of individual classes based on popularity, driving the cost of a class that would normally run around $46 a credit to as much as $180 per credit per semester. That new plan was on the scheduled agenda for last night’s public board meeting, prompting about 200 students to marched on the meeting to voice their protests. Unfortunately, the meeting was held in a room that only holds about 60 people, forcing most of the protesters into an overflow room. They later tried to force their way into the already crowded main room, creating a wild scene in the narrow and crowded hallway outside. That’s when campus police responded with the spray.
Roughly 30 people had to be treated for their injuries and two people had to be hospitalized. Twitter user Sarah Belknap was at the meeting and tweeted that she saw the young girl get sprayed in the face and that several people were nearly trampled in the chaos. Anyone who has ever been around pepper spray when it’s in use knows that it’s generally something you don’t want to spray indoors, as there is nowhere for the noxious fumes to disperse. Several students also complained of rough treatment by the baton-wielding police trying to clear out the crowd. Santa Monica city police were present at the meeting, but say it was campus police who were responsible for the crowd control measures.
The entire incident was reminiscent of the spraying of seated students at an Occupy Wall Street protest at UC-Davis last year. In fact, it’s almost hard to imagine a scene like this even happening were it not for the big rise in student activism and the revolution in organizing tactics that have come out of the Occupy movement. The students have clearly learned a lesson from the experiences of the last six months, but it doesn’t seem like the authorities have.