Several videos were posted Wednesday from eyewitnesses to a pepper-spraying incident at California's Santa Monica Community College, where about 30 students were attacked on Tuesday night after disrupting a board of trustees meeting to protest the college's planned tuition hikes.
More than 100 students interrupted the meeting, shouting shame on you! at trustees while protesting a contentious plan that would offer higher-priced courses at the college this summer. After a group of students overflowed the board meeting room against the orders of campus police, the officers began pepper-spraying the demonstrators, according to several local media reports.
At least two students were hospitalized and at least 30 were treated for pepper spray exposure as a result of the incident, which quickly made national headlines in the wake of a similar pepper-spraying incident at the University of California, Davis, against Occupy Wall Street-affiliated demonstrators last fall.
Jenna Chandler, the editor of the local website Santa Monica Patch, was one of the few reporters at the scene who caught live footage of the incident. The 17-second video shot by Chandler depicts several hysterical students running down a hallway away from police after being hit with painful aerosol. Several students can be heard in the background shouting shame on you!
The Associated Press has also posted a longer video of the incident.
The students were raising their voices against a plan by the college to offer a second tier of classes not subsidized by the state, a move many students have denounced as privatization, according to Santa Monica Patch. The cost to enroll in those courses would be about $180, almost six times what in-state students currently pay per unit.
The college reportedly devised the plan as a way of restoring 50 courses set to be eliminated this summer due to severe state budget cuts.
Board of Trustees Chairwoman Margaret Quinones-Perez said the college would pay the medical bills of any students who suffered injuries during the disturbance, the Los Angeles Times reported. However, while Quinones-Perez may be trying to make the best of an ugly incident, college Trustee David Finkel told Santa Monica Patch the use of pepper spray on students was a black eye on the college.
It may be that you will conclude ... that it was an inescapable necessity, but I'm not convinced of that, he said.
College administrators said Wednesday they would investigate the disturbance.