Regents' Meeting Marred by Pepper Spray, Arrests

Photo: UCPD pepper sprays protesters outside the UC Board of Regents meeting.
David Herschorn/Staff
UCPD pepper sprays protesters outside the UC Board of Regents meeting.

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Photo: ASUC External Affairs Vice President Ricardo Gomez kneels on the ground after being pepper sprayed in the face.   Photo: Protesters mass outside UCSF's Mission Bay campus where the UC Board of Regents is being held.   

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SAN FRANCISCO - As the UC Board of Regents met at the UC San Francisco campus Wednesday, violent skirmishes broke out between students protesting an impending eight percent fee increase and police officers, resulting in 13 arrests. During the day, more than a dozen protesters were pepper sprayed by police officers as a crowd of 300 amassed outside the meeting and - 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 UC Berkeley students - and one student from UC Merced was charged with a felony for allegedly striking the UCPD officer in the head with his own baton, according to Pamela Roskowski, UCSF's police chief. Roskowski said given the crowd's aggressive nature the officer "showed great restraint," adding that she said the officer acted in self defense in the face of shouts from demonstrators to "take his gun."

Altercations and shoving matches 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. Police officers began pepper spraying protesters after some in the crowd began pulling barricades away from the officers. As the protests escalated, police officers began dousing the crowd with pepper spray after the crowd threw rocks and wooden signs at officers.

"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."

Though members from the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 and University Professional and Technical Employees, as well as student activists from several UC campuses, first gathered in picket lines at the building's entrances around 7:30 a.m, the majority of arrests did not begin until officers in riot gear rushed into an adjoining parking structure, responding to a call for back-up from the UCPD officer who was swarmed by the protesters.

As the officers ran up a short stairwell to the garage, dozens of protesters pushed the officers back down the stairwell, throwing themselves on the officers. At least six were detained, including ASUC External Affairs Vice President Ricardo Gomez, who was also pepper sprayed earlier in the morning on the other side of the building.

As the protests unfolded outside, UC President Mark Yudof made an impassioned plea to the board, telling them the fee increases and pension cuts were necessary given the financial crisis the state is facing. Other university officials addressing the board - including UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Academic Senate Chair Dan Simmons - expressed their support for raising fees by 8 percent to $11,124 per year for the 2011-12 academic year.

Russell Gould, the 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 and cause.

"This is more fundamental - this is enduring," Gould told the board, adding that he expects the UC to be the recipient of cuts when the state Legislature gathers to close a $6 billion deficit in the current fiscal year.

LaKeisha Harrison, a licensed nurse at UCLA and president of the AFSCME 3299 chapter, said despite the dire nature of the state's finances, low-wage workers should not be forced to bear the burden of proposed pension cuts.

"Now (the regents) heard our concerns, maybe they'll alter some of the plans they've been making," said Ruben Santos, a custodian at UC Davis who is also an ASFSCME member, of regents meeting protests.

Out of the 13 detainees arrested, eight remain in custody and five will be released, having been issued citations and notices to appear in court, police said.

Aaida Samad of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.


Contact Javier Panzar and Nina Brown at [email protected]

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