Students pepper-sprayed for protesting at Santa Monica College (VIDEO)
At least two people were hospitalized on Tuesday after a protest at Santa Monica College outside of Los Angeles ended in a fog of pepper spray.
Hundreds of protesters had gathered outside a trustees meeting on campus that evening to wage complaints against a plan to add high-priced classes to the available course load at the community college in Southern California. After several students were refused admission into the meeting room and calls to relocate the rendezvous were ignored, protesters attempted to enter the premises on their own behalf. As the crowd of concerned students and demonstrators demanded to be heard by shot-callers at the college, police officers on the scene responded by discharging nonlethal pepper spray on protesters, injuring several, including bystanders.
“People were gasping and choking,” David Steinman tells the Associated Press. Steinman, a local environmental activist, was protesting against the college’s attempt to raise the cost of select classes. He is currently running for California Congress in hopes of winning a seat in the state’s District 33. On his campaign’s official Facebook page, addressed his concerns over the college’s plans hours before the incident.
“We are excluding students, and taxing them without representation, I feel, to feed a bloated state budget,” wrote Steinman, who added that the school has exponentially increased student fees over the years. “We need to look at the state community college boards of trustees as well as at our state government which has absolutely no accountability to the people. We need education to move our state forward.
The tiered system being proposed does just the opposite,” said Steinman.
While Steinman was among the 30 or so victims that were sprayed down by police, he wasn’t the most unlikely one. A young girl reported to be only four years old was also injured in the assault.
Others attacked by police say that law enforcement acted without notice and perhaps proper foresight. Marioly Gomez, a 21-year-old student at the schools, tells AP that she was pepper-sprayed without warning. In addition to the two hospitalized persons, around five are reported to have received medical attention at the scene.
Students on the scene were protesting a plan that would quadruple the price of some select classes at the college to around $600 per unit. As class sizes have dwindled in recent years, community colleges across California have lost substantial state funding, in turn causing the cost of classes to rise. As an alternative to costlier private and public schools, community colleges offer an opportunity for the less financially fortunate to receive a proper education.
Up the state in Davis, California, several students were assaulted with pepper spray last November while protesting similar tuition hikes.