Protests continue at SMC, president responds

Andy Riesmeyer: 2:40PST Student protesters led meetings on the Santa Monica College library steps Wednesday morning to discuss last night’s pepper-spraying incident, followed by another protest throughout the campus.

A group of about 80 students marched south from the library steps to Pearl Street at around 2 p.m. and assembled across from the police department, chanting “No Fees, SMC!”

Police watched from across Pearl Street but did not engage the protesters.

The group then walked north through the center of campus while holding copies of The Corsair newspaper above their heads. Chants in opposition to the new self-funded education classes were heard before the march assembled at the clock tower for a round table discussion.

“We’re seeing a lack of democracy here, they voted on this without even asking us,” said Samaria Gomez, a protester from the Student Organizing Committee. “I’m also seeing a lot of police brutality. Right as we were marching there were police just right behind us.”

Calls of police brutality by members of the student activist groups were met with a statement released by SMC President and Superintendent Dr. Chui L Tsang this afternoon.

The official statement said that there was “one discharge of pepper spray used by a SMC police officer to preserve public and personal safety,” and that the college had launched a full investigation into the matter.

Though the Santa Monica College Police Department is not fully staffed today, Sgt. Joel Williams, one of the officers involved in the pepper-spraying incident, will be on duty tonight. SMCPD denied our request for comment.

Many teachers devoted class time Wednesday to address last night’s demonstration and implications. Economics studies professor Eileen Rabach devoted an entire class period to discussing the social situation regarding contract ed.

Student Trustee Josh Scuteri said, “CNN was here just this morning; it’s through unfortunate events the press came around, but it’s great that it’s raising awareness about the crisis of education. This is like our Alamo.”

Students had been trying to present a referendum to the Contract Ed program which would offer more classes to students shut out of state-funded classes but at a higher price point.

Protesters worry that it will create a wealth disparity and lead to the "privatization" of education at the college.

Those injured in the demonstration may submit medical bills to the Student Affairs Office, the press release said.