Santa Monica College students pepper sprayed while protesting planned class change

Two women treat a baby suffering from the effects of pepper spray during the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees meeting. Michael Yanow / Getty Images

On April 3, Santa Monica College students and other protesters attempted to get into the school Board of Trustees meeting. Some Santa Monica police officers used pepper spray on the crowd of demonstrators as they worked to deter them.

The students were present to protest the school’s decision to offer some high-demand classes, such as core English and math courses, at an increased cost of $180 to $200 per unit, up from $36 per unit normally and $46 per unit beginning in summer 2012. This “two tier” system of courses has incited fears that it will lead to a slippery slope where more classes will be segregated in this manner.

CBS News reported that the police allege that protesters backed two officers against a wall and when one officer lost his balance, that was when some of them made the decision to begin using greater force and pepper spray to break up the crowd.

Santa Monica College spokesman Bruce Smith said that to his knowledge, it was the first time pepper spray was used by police against students on their campus. “It was the judgment of police that the crowd was getting out of hand and it was a safety issue,” he said.

Maribel Gomez, 21, told reporters that she was waiting outside the meeting with other protesters when police came out. “I got pepper-sprayed without warning,” she said.

Video of the incident reached social media and traditional news outlets, such as the L.A. Times.

“Santa Monica College student pepper sprayed” by YouTube user TheDigitalfolklore

The spraying sparked comment on whether or not the police were justified, and greater political debates about the costs of education. It is similar to the UC Davis incident in November, but the dynamic is different due to pepper spray being used on a group of protesters attempting to get inside a meeting, rather than idle demonstrators sitting in silence.

“The news video I saw showed the two security guards being physically attacked,” commenter John Napier said on the Los Angeles Times article. “Considering they were outnumbered about 50 to 1, I’d say pepper spray was called for.”

“What many conservatives fail to realize is that you can’t run a nation like a company, in that you can’t “fire” citizens,” Evan Parker commented on the same article. “You’re going to be paying for them one way or another – you can either fund their education, allowing them to create value for themselves, the firms they work for, and the government (through higher taxes due to their better jobs), or you can pay for more police and more welfare.”

Santa Monica Patch reported that the trustees intend to move forward with the plan to introduce the two-tier system. “We don’t want to be bullied,” trustee Louise Jaffe said.

On Wednesday, the L.A. Times reported that Jack Scott, the chancellor of the California community college system, called Santa Monica College President Chui L. Tsang to request that the school suspend its plans to implement the two-tier classes. He said that the plan is possibly in violation of state education codes, and asked California Attorney General Kamala Harris to assess the situation. Harris’ office is expected to respond within a week.

On April 6, Tsang called for an emergency Board of Trustees meeting, where they voted unanimously to delay the two-tier system indefinitely pending more review, discussion, and community input.

Matthew Medina
News Editor

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  1. Dn4u
    April 11, 2012

    don’t get me wrong I am not in favor of violence,however I think that the fkin police are out of control.And if I had one alone The mther fcker would be crying from their own pepperspray. They are facists and have no respect for life.They lie when it suits them and abuse their positions of power.Our tax dollars pay their salaries and yet they still disrespect us on a civil level.Killing whenever they want and blaming others for their actions. Oh I lost my balance so I have to pepper spray U. ha ha.I think these officers were trying to keep people out if the trustee meeting so they could pass the initiatives with out other objecting.

  2. Sam
    April 11, 2012

    Most young adults have not lived in the real world to find out life is not fair and most young adults who slander our police officers have not ever taken the time to find out what it takes to become a law enforcer. Our young adults have become spoon fed by the media they believer whatever they hear and most are looking for a handout. What happen to the days when you work hard to earn money to pay for your education without worrying how do I get someone else to pay for half of it. This is what to do: you saved, made due with what you needed and then saved some more. Where does conservatives come into the picture here? Santa Monica is a liberal city they are just doing what liberals do -simple!

  3. Richard Sequeira
    April 14, 2012

    There goes Sam with one of his inane comments.

    I seriously doubt that you can afford the two tier payments of 214 US Dollars per unit, I certainly can, but I can acknowledge that it would be expensive. I am sorry that you think education is for the few elite. People like you who believe in the exclusivity in education have failed with their arguments. Was is it with you demonising on those who need financial need? Without a government handout, Mount San Antonio College would not have existed with the G.I bill. Ever wonder why America has been in decline in its education system and its people as a whole? Because of people like you who celebrate anti-intellectualism and the stupidity that is associated with it.

    Our policemen have become the protectors of the cronies in Sacramento and Washington D.C. Tax money goes out to them so that they can instill fear in the hearts of millions while the small minority called the Wealthy class can sit in their laurels. What are you going to label those who defend the liberals? Terrorists? As might as well label the conservatives who have ties to terrorist organisations.

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