The Daily Californian Online: Regents’ Meeting Marred by Unrest
Protesters and police Officers clash outside of the Regents’ meeting Wednesday. The meeting sparked these demonstrations because the Regents considered implementing an 8 percent fee hike.
SAN FRANCISCO – As the UC Board of Regents met at UC San Francisco Wednesday, violent skirmishes broke out between police officers and students protesting an impending 8 percent fee increase, resulting in 13 arrests throughout the day.
During the height of the demonstration, police doused more than a dozen protesters with pepper spray as a crowd of 300 amassed outside the meeting. In the day’s most dramatic moment, a UCPD officer drew his pistol and pointed it at a crowd of protesters after they swarmed him and he dropped his baton.
Eleven UC students were arrested – including seven from UC Berkeley – and one student from UC Merced was charged with a felony for allegedly striking a UCPD officer in the head with his own baton, according to Pamela Roskowski, UCSF’s police chief. She said given the crowd’s aggressive nature the officer “showed great restraint,” adding that he acted in self defense in the face of shouts from some demonstrators to “take his gun.”
Alejandro Lara-Briseno, an alumnus of UC Berkeley who witnessed the event, said that in fact, the officer hit a student with his baton with such force that the baton bounced out of his hand. Facing the crowd, the officer panicked, pulled his gun and aimed it at students, according to Lara-Briseno.
“Nobody actually struck an officer,” he said. “We were, on the other hand, struck by them, for no reason other than we were linking arms, we were chanting.”
Clashes broke out between police and protesters around 9 a.m. as the two groups gathered on opposite sides of UCPD barricades on the east side of UCSF’s Mission Bay Community Center. Without warning, police officers began pepper spraying protesters after some in the crowd began pulling barricades away from the officers. As the crowd threw rocks and wooden signs at officers, police responded with more pepper spray.
“I was in the very front and there were 150 people pushing me forward,” said UC Berkeley graduate student Callie Maidhof as she rinsed her eyes after being pepper-sprayed. “I can’t walk, I got jabbed in the leg and every time I blink, it’s worse.”
Members of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 and University Professional and Technical Employees unions – as well as student activists from several UC campuses – first surrounded the building where the regents were meeting at around 7:30 a.m. The majority of arrests occurred after the UCPD officer who was swarmed by the protesters called for back-up.
As police in riot gear ran up a short stairwell to the parking garage where the officer was located, dozens of protesters threw themselves on the officers, pushing them back down the stairwell.
Police responded by arresting six of the protesters, including ASUC External Affairs Vice President Ricardo Gomez, who was also pepper sprayed earlier. As of press time, three of the 13 arrested had been released and had returned to UC Berkeley.
As the protests unfolded outside, UC President Mark Yudof made an impassioned plea to the board inside, telling them proposed fee increases and pension cuts were necessary given the financial crisis the state is facing. Other university officials – including UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Academic Senate Chair Daniel Simmons – said they support raising fees by 8 percent to $11,124 per year for the 2011-12 academic year.
Russell Gould, chair of the board and former director of the state’s department of finance, called the state’s looming two-year $25 billion budget deficit historic in its size, adding that he expects the UC to face more cuts when the state legislature meets to close a $6 billion deficit for the current fiscal year.
“This is more fundamental – this is enduring,” Gould told the board.
Aaida Samad of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.
Article Link: http://www.dailycal.org/article/111248