Education

13 arrested, hundreds protest outside UC Regents meeting

Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Protesters pepper sprayed during fee hike demonstration Protest at UC Mission Bay

On Wednesday, an angry demonstration turned violent over UC student fee increases and pension cuts. Hundreds of students and workers gathered outside the UC regents meeting at the Mission Bay campus in San Francisco. By the time it was over, some protesters were pepper sprayed and some were arrested.

UC police say one officer had to pull his gun when he found himself alone in a parking garage, surrounded by a crowd of about 40. They got his baton away from him and were attacking him with it. UC police say the problem started when the crowds stormed the barricades, trying to cross police lines.

Students and workers from a variety of UC campuses came to protest proposed fee increases and pension reductions outside the regents meeting. After a couple hours of peaceful protest, things heated up. UC Berkeley graduate Alejandro Lara-Briseno was hit repeatedly with a baton and officers used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

"I was standing with many students, not moving and the police line charged at us. The police officers in the front said move back and I told them I can't move back, there's 200 students behind me," said Lara-Briseno.

Eleven students and two other people were arrested, one for assault with a deadly weapon, the rest for obstruction of a peace officer.

"It is my belief that officers conducted themselves very well and showed great restraint under the circumstances," said UC Police Chief Pamela Roskowski.

UC regents discussed a proposed 8 percent student fee increase and changes to retirement plans, in order to chip away at a $1 billion shortfall that has accumulated since 2007.

The 8 percent increase translates to a $822 increase, for a yearly tuition of $11,124. Fees went up 32 percent last year. Protesters say top UC executives should take more pay cuts.

The regents are also considering a move to help lower income students; tuition will be fully covered for households making less than $80,000 -- that's an increase from the $70,000 ceiling. And for students from households making less than $120, 000, the 8 percent increase would be covered by grants for the first year.

Students think top executives should take more pay cuts.

"We have an obligation to maintain excellence and access to our students and we can't afford it because of state budget cuts and the economy. It's really tough," said Vice President of UC Communications Lynn Tierney.

"My classes are so big, professors can barely handle 400 students in a classroom," said demonstrator Rosalinda Garcia.

And employees are worried about their pensions.

"People who would be making $10,000 a year in retirement will be making under $2,000 a year in retirement if these cuts go through. This is outrageous," said demonstrator Tanya Smith.

Police say two or three officers were injured. UC police did not have a count for demonstrators' injuries, but police said no one went to the hospital.

The regents will vote on Thursday and the demonstrators will be back.

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