this week, hundreds of students at Santa Monica College in California were demonstrating against the rising cost of classes.
They were met with a pepper-spray attack by the police. 30 people were affected, including a congressional candidate and a small child. At least 2 persons were hospitalized.
The college has said that it plans to add high-priced classes to the available course load at the Santa Monica community college. The students were protesting that the plan would quadruple the price of several select classes at the college to approximately $600 per unit.
In recent years, class sizes have lessened, and community colleges across California are losing a substantial amount of state funding. This in turn causes the cost of the classes to rise.
Community colleges are supposed to offer a proper education to less fortunate students.
gathered outside a trustees meeting on campus that evening to complain about the high costs. After several students had been refused admission to the meeting, and calls to relocate the rendezvous were ignored, the protesters tried to enter the premises.
Police officers on the scene then responded by discharging non-lethal pepper-spray on the protesters and injured several of them, including bystanders.
David Steinman is a local environmental activist and was protesting against the college's wish to raise the cost of select classes. Steinman is currently running for California Congress and hopes to win a seat in the state's District 33. He had addressed concerns over the college's plans on his campaign's official Facebook page hours before the incident
“People were gasping and choking,” David Steinman tells the Associated Press. “We are excluding students, and taxing them without representation, I feel, to feed a bloated state budget.”
Steinman added that the school has exponentially increased student fees over the years and says: “We need to look at the state community college boards of trustees as well as at our state government which has absolutely no accountability to the people. We need education to move our state forward. The tiered system being proposed does just the opposite.”
Steinman was among the approximately 30 victims sprayed by the police and a young girl reported to be only 4 years old was also injured in the assault.
One of the students
, Marioly Gomez, 21, said she was standing in a hallway outside the meeting with several hundred other students who wanted to get into the meeting. "I got pepper-sprayed without warning," she said.
A representative for the Santa Monica College, Bruce Smith, said that he believed it was the first time that pepper spray had been used to subdue students on campus. "It was the judgment of police that the crowd was getting out of hand and it was a safety issue," he said.
Other victims of the pepper-spray attack say that the police acted without notice and possibly without proper foresight.
Besides the 2 persons hospitalized in the incident, approximately 5 apparently received medical attention at the scene.