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72 arrested during ‘occupy the Capitol’ student protest

March 6, 2012 |  9:24 am

Authorities arrested 68 students and activists who refused to leave the state Capitol on Monday evening after an hours-long protest over cuts to higher education.

The demonstration, billed by some as an "occupy the Capitol" act and supported by a loose coalition of student groups and labor unions, was the latest sign of simmering discontent over steady hikes in the cost of attending state universities and community colleges.

As the building closed at 6 p.m., many refused to leave -- resulting in the 68 arrests. Four others were arrested earlier in the day, according to a report by the Times' PolitiCal blog.

"We're getting pushed against a wall," said UC Santa Cruz student Carson Watts, 23, noting that tuition has tripled at state universities over the last decade.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who signed a budget last year that slashed funding for the University of California and Cal State systems by 23%, did not attend the rally. But he said through a spokeswoman: "The students today are reflecting the frustrations of millions of Californians who have seen their public schools and universities eroded year after year. That's why it's imperative that we get more tax revenue this November," a reference to his proposed ballot initiative to raise taxes.

The California Highway Patrol, in charge of Capitol security, declined to estimate the number of protesters, although many reports put the crowd into the thousands.

About 200 made it inside the building and lingered beneath its 19th century rotunda before CHP officers sealed off the area. Dozens more milled in the hallways or dropped into legislative offices to plead for more funding.


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-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento