Santa Monica College students who attempted to storm a trustee board meeting in protest of higher course fees were pepper-sprayed by campus police, MSNBC reported.
Around 30 students were pepper-sprayed, and a handful of protesters suffered minor injuries as police tried to prevent around 100 students from disrupting the Tuesday night meeting during a public comment period, the Los Angeles Times reported. Two people were taken to a hospital from the effects of the pepper spray, campus police told the LA Times.
The crowd of students gathered in a hallway outside the door of a 60-person capacity room to oppose the first tuition hike by a community college, Priscilla Omon, a member of the college's activist group Student Organizing Committee, told NBC Los Angeles.
The increases would see the price of some courses rise from $46 per unit to $180 during the summer session, which would mean a high-demand 3-unit course would cost about $540, according to NBC News.
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The demonstrators said they requested that the trustees meet in a larger room to accommodate them last month, but were denied. An overflow room was offered to students with a closed-circuit video of the meeting, according to NBC News.
"We expected some students, but we didn't expect that big of a crowd with such enthusiasm," the Board's President Chui Tsang told the LA Times.
However, when the large group of students showed up in the hall and demanded entrance to the meeting, police blocked their entry, and at least one officer used pepper spray after some students tried to force their way in.
"They were trying to silence our voices by not allowing students access to this supposedly open forum," Omon said, according to NBC.
"The students wanted to be heard and we wanted to be in the room where we could fairly discuss this topic, and be seen by them," said Aura Chavez, 18, who was standing in the back of the crowd when the pepper spray incident happened. "We wanted to let them see how many students care about their education."
Margaret Quinones-Perez, the board's chair, said that the college would pay the medical bills of students who suffered injuries during the protest, the LA Times reported.
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A pepper-spray incident at an Occupy protest at the University of California Davis last fall sparked national outrage, opening up a dialog about whether such a non-lethal weapon should be used on unarmed protesters, LA Weekly reported.