Unrest continues at Santa Monica College on Thursday
Students march up Pico to president's office demanding an apology on third day of protests.
Demonstrations continued to intensify at Santa Monica College on Thursday, following Tuesday night’s chaotic events in which 30 student protesters were pepper-sprayed while demonstrating over the school’s controversial Contract Ed measure. A group of about 100 students marched ten blocks from the main campus to the office of President and Superintendent Dr. Chui L. Tsang.
Protesters began to congregate and hold a rally on the main campus just before 11 a.m., and were led by Student Organizing Committee speaker Mikhail Pronilover, and Associated Students President Harrison Wills.
Following Tuesday night’s Board of Trustees meeting that quickly turned to violence between campus police and student activists, members of the local media were fanned out across SMC.
Pronilover called upon California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott to rule the Contract Ed program illegal. Yesterday, Chancellor Scott called President Tsang, and requested the Contract Ed program be postponed. The Chancellor’s office is currently waiting on a legal opinion from the State Attorney General.
Upon arrival at the administrative building on the corner of 28th Street, protestors formed a large crowd in front of the street-side entrance. There was a heavy police presence throughout the entirety of the “shame-march” on Pico.
Pronilover said the organizers were going to Tsang’s office to demand an apology for Tuesday night’s pepper-spraying incident, as well as demand the termination of SMCPD’s Sergeant Joe Williams, the sergeant who pepper-sprayed protestors at Tuesday’s trustees meeting.
Today’s demonstration was met with limited student opposition. David Cooper, a psychology student at SMC, voiced his opinion to the crowd several times. “You’ve all been promised a system that is low cost,” he said. “You’re protesting the wrong people!”
Coopers remarks were met with a nearly unanimous negative reaction from the crowd. At one point, Pronilover and Cooper exchanged heated words in a verbal altercation. After trading barbs, Cooper made his way through the protesters to speak to media. Protesters targeted him and shouted at him, one calling him a “fag.”
“It’s sad what they’re doing,” Cooper said in an interview with the Corsair.
Ernie Sevilla, president of the honor society at SMC, also publicly opposed the Student Organizing Committee’s contention that they suffered unprovoked “brutality” at Tuesday’s trustees meeting. “Absolutely, unequivocally not police brutality,” Sevilla said, claiming that the protestors ignored the Board of Trustees’ requests for following a system of numbered entry, and acted with impunity towards the officers requests for calm.
During the protest, the chair of the Board of Trustees, Margaret Quinonez-Peres, informed the Corsair that there would be an emergency Board of Trustees meeting at 10:30 a.m. on Friday in the SMC Theater Arts Building’s main stage. The meeting, which will be open to the public, will address Chancellor Scott’s request to put the Contract Ed program on hold.
“It’s unfortunate what happened,” Quinonez-Peres said. “The Board needs to make this right for the students.”