Protesting UC tuition hikes

April 2, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO--Three students were arrested as police in riot gear herded approximately 40 students and union activists out of the University of California (UC) San Francisco-Mission Bay Community Center, where the UC Board of Regents was meeting March 29.

Discussion of the UC system's 2012-13 school-year budget and finances was on the agenda. Activists used the public comment portion of the meeting to denounce the regents for skyrocketing tuition, lack of transparency in state funding talks with the governor and violent police repression of campus protests.

"We are here to hold you accountable and ensure that working-class students can afford UC, instead of spending money to fund construction projects and pay off banks," said UC Los Angeles (UCLA) graduate student Alexandra Holmstrom-Smith.

Shouts of protest erupted 45 minutes into the meeting when Board Chair Sherry Lansing ended public comment before all who claimed to have signed the speakers' list had a chance at the microphone. Five minutes later, the regents stood up and walked out as police in riot gear filled the auditorium. Activists shouted in unison at the retreating regents, "Just to be clear, you are abandoning a public space to prevent four people from speaking!"

City College student Robin Ryan, who was denied access to the microphone during public comment, used this moment to speak out. "Growing up in Louisiana, I thought it would be cool to raise my daughter in California because this state had a model public education system," said Ryan. "Now, my 16-year-old daughter will not be able to afford UC. The South is looking more affordable! I am so pissed, I am going to get the hell out of this state."

Police issued an order to disperse and warned activists that they had 10 minutes to leave. During this interval, some activists performed a mock "spring break" dance party, complete with leis, students stripped-down to bathing suits and a boombox blasting Tupac. The intent, apparently, was to laugh at the situation.

UC Graduate Student Union President Cheryl Deutsch and UCLA students Andrew Harkness-Newton and Mathew Sandoval were arrested when police moved aggressively to clear the building of activists.

UC Santa Cruz graduate student Adam Hefty was standing next to Deutsch in a hallway outside the meeting room when she was arrested. "We were trapped between two groups of cops and had nowhere to go. She was filming the scene when police grabbed her and brought her to the ground," said Hefty.

UCLA American Federation of Teachers Organizer John Bruning said he saw police throw Harkness-Newton to the ground as they herded activists down a flight of stairs.

All three were charged with obstructing an officer and failure to disperse. Harkness-Newton was charged with battery on a police officer. Sandoval was charged with use of violence to prevent an officer from performing his or her duty and taking by means of a riot any person from lawful custody of a police officer, the only felony.

After clearing the auditorium, the regents returned to continue their meeting without further incident.

First published in the City College Guardsman.

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