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UC students voice anger about pepper spraying, budget cuts

November 28, 2011 | 11:47 am

A UC Davis police officer douses students with pepper spray during a campus demonstration on Nov. 18. Credit: Brian Nguyen / Reuters

The UC Regents on Monday got an earful of criticism from students angry about the recent pepper spray incident at UC Davis and worried about the possibility of another tuition hike next year. However, massive demonstrations did not materialize at the four UC campuses where the regents were meeting, linked by teleconference. 

At UCLA, about 50 students were at the James West Alumni Center and about 50 more were outside, including some who had set up about 15 tents nearby. UC officials said about 50 protesters attended the meeting at UC San Francisco and about 35 were at UC Merced. Several hundred students and others were at UC Davis for the meeting. Student leaders said turnout was relatively light because of the timing, the first morning after the Thanksgiving break.

Those in the audience at UCLA responded with cheers, applause and finger-snapping when speakers demanded protection from campus police and called on the regents to lobby for tax changes that would better support higher education and stem cuts to the university. The atmosphere was peaceful, although there was a large police presence.

Some students called for the resignations of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi and UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, the latter because of what protesters described as rough tactics by campus police during an early November demonstration at UC Berkeley.

“First protect student safety. And instruct the Police Department to never use violence,” said Emily Resnick, UCLA's undergraduate student body president. “It is sickening and outrageous that this happened in the first place.”

At the meeting’s start, both UC President Mark G. Yudof and regents chair Sherry Lansing promised to follow through on previously announced steps to investigate the pepper spraying and other police action against student demonstrators. One probe will be led by former Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton.

“We cannot change the past. But we can change the way we act in the future,” Lansing told the crowd. “We want all of you to know we fully and unequivocably support your right to protest peacefully.”


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-- Larry Gordon at UCLA and Patrick McGreevy at UC Davis

Photo: A UC Davis police officer douses students with pepper spray during a campus demonstration on Nov. 18. Credit: Brian Nguyen / Reuters