Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.
Campus police at a California college pepper-sprayed as many as 30 demonstrators on Tuesday as they tried to cram into a trustee meeting to protest a proposed price hike for some of the school's most popular summer courses.
Raw footage of the incident at Santa Monica College quickly found its way online and went viral. (We've embedded it below.)
The Associated Press reports that the confrontation occurred after school officials attempted to limit the number of people allowed into the meeting during the public comment period. The demonstrators, believed to be mostly students, attempted to force their way into the room after officials denied a request to move the meeting to a larger space to accommodate the crowd. In an effort to keep the demonstrators out, two officers used force including pepper spray.
The Los Angeles Times reports that two people were taken to the hospital after suffering the effects of pepper spray. The college said that it will pay the medical bills of any students that were injured.
College spokesman Bruce Smith told the AP that the protest had become a "safety issue" necessitating the use of force, but trustee David Finkel called the incident a "black eye" for the school. The meeting was delayed and moved to another room on campus.
Students were protesting the implementation of a two-tiered tuition plan that would charge extra for high-demand courses at the community college. The two-year school, which has 34,000 students, is facing both a budget crisis and a crowded field for registration in the school's core classes.
Under the new plan, students would pay $180 per credit hour for selected courses, instead of the current $36 per credit hour. As the New York Times explains, critics worry that the plan will prevent the school's more cash-strapped students from taking the courses they need.
Of course, this isn't the first time a California college has been in the news for using pepper spray against its own students. Peacefully protesting students at UC Davis were famously pepper sprayed in the face last fall. The video of the incident became a symbol of police brutality against Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Here's the video: