Santa Monica College students pepper-sprayed while protesting expensive courses


Congressional candidate David Steinman wipes his face after being sprayed with pepper spray during the protest on Tuesday. (AP/AP)

More than two dozen Santa Monica College students were pepper-sprayed Tuesday night after they tried to enter a trustees meeting while chanting “Let us in” and “No cuts, no fees, education should be free.”

Raw video posted to YouTube shows the students screaming and crying as they hold their hands to their eyes. A college spokesman told the Associated Press that it was the “judgment of campus police that the crowd was getting out of hand,” noting that this was the first time pepper spray had been used on campus.

The incident is the latest reflection of rising anger on California campuses over spending cuts to higher education.

Last fall, video of a campus police lieutenant pepper-spraying University of California at Davis students went viral, drawing international attention and fueling further student demonstrations. The UC-Davis students were protesting tuition increases.

In March, that anger played out at UC-Santa Cruz, where students shut down much of the school by blocking campus entrances. Days later, almost 70 students were arrested in Sacramento for refusing to leave the state Capitol.

California students have been severely impacted by the billions of dollars cut from the state’s education budget over the past several years. In the past five years, tuition has nearly doubled, to the extent that for many California students, Harvard and Yale are now less expensive than state schools.

In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons, versus $5.7 billion on higher education.

Santa Monica College students gathered at the trustees meeting Tuesday to protest proposed price hikes for core courses. Under a new plan, each core course will cost $600, four times the current price.

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