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2 hospitalized in Santa Monica College pepper-spray incident

Police on Wednesday were trying to sort out who used pepper spray against a crowd of protesters at Santa Monica College, causing two people to be hospitalized and others to suffer minor injuries.

The pepper spray was used during a protest Tuesday evening by about 100 students against a plan to offer high-priced courses at the college this summer. They were attending a meeting of the college's board of trustees.

A handful of protesters suffered minor injuries as campus police tried to prevent dozens of students chanting "Let us in, let us in" and "No cuts, no fees, education should be free" from disrupting the meeting during a public comment period.

Several were also overcome when pepper spray was released just outside the meeting room as officers tried to break up the crowd. Police are investigating the circumstances of when the pepper spray was used and by whom.

Cameron Espinoza said she was outside the board meeting, near the back of the crowd, when she heard screams.

"I saw all these students rushing and they were crying," said Espinoza, 19, who is director of outreach for the student government. "I couldn't stop coughing."

No arrests were made. The meeting room was cleared, and trustees adjourned to another room.

Santa Monica police were called in to secure the perimeter of the building. College President Chui Tsang said the small boardroom wasn't able to accommodate all of the students who wanted to speak and that an adjacent room had been provided for the overflow.

"We expected some students, but we didn't expect that big of a crowd with such enthusiasm," Tsang said.

When the meeting resumed, most of the students were allowed to address trustees from an adjoining room. Many urged the board to find other solutions to maintain access.

"This is a Band-Aid on a gushing wound and will not be a sustainable solution," said Parker Jean, 19, a political science major.

Board Chair Margaret Quinones-Perez announced at the end of the comment period that the college would pay medical bills for any students who suffered injuries during the disturbance.

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-- Carla Rivera in Santa Monica

 
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