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Students Shut Down UC Regents Finance Meeting

Tasbeeh Herwees |
January 19, 2012 | 10:48 p.m. PST

Senior Staff Reporter

Protesters in the foreground, police in the background at the UC Regents protest (photos by Tasbeeh Herwees).
Protesters in the foreground, police in the background at the UC Regents protest (photos by Tasbeeh Herwees).
Two students were arrested Thursday after a minor clash with police during a protest against tuition hikes at the UC Riverside campus. UC Regents held a finance meeting at the campus in the afternoon. 

That morning, 18 protesters briefly shut down the meeting when they staged an Occupy-style demonstration in the middle of the conference hall, sitting on the ground with linked arms and chanting their demands. 

“We have lost faith in the regents’ ability or desire to serve our needs and we will voice our dissent,” they recited from a letter addressed to the University of California community. Among their demands were pay cuts for executive administrators, the rehiring of faculty, and the restoration of classes canceled due to budget cuts.

The students were allotted 20 minutes for public comment in the beginning of the session and took the time to express harsh disapproval of the administration. Although the regents insisted they received no salaries, many students accused them of “lining the pockets” of “the one percent” and not holding the best interests of the students at heart. 

Sophia Armen, a third year UC Santa Barbara student and community activist, roused the crowd with an impassioned tirade railing against the regents. 

“Enough! I’ve been wasting my study time organizing on your behalf. I am done,” she said, “When you saw those students pepper-sprayed at UC Davis, when you saw those students batoned at UC Berkeley, those are not isolated incidents!”

Although the rest of the regents filed out of the hall when protesters initiated the sit-in, Chairwoman Sherry Lansing stayed behind and momentarily listened to their demands.

“I came to speak to you because I respect what you all have to say,” Lansing said to the protesters. “What is frustrating to me is that you don’t respect our opportunity to speak back.” 

Student representative of the regents Alfredo Mireles and Jonathan Stein also addressed the protesters and expressed solidarity with the movement. 

“I know I may wear a suit and I know we may have different tactics but we want the same things,” Mireles said, who teared up as he told the students of his own struggles as a student.  

The regents returned to the hall when the students left and continued their meeting, though they never had the opportunity to discuss alternative sources of revenue in case of budget cuts. Armen, who managed to stay behind, said students were misled to believe the meeting had reconvened in another room. 

“This is a charade,” Armen said, listening to representatives from Berkeley discuss a technology licensing program. She sent out short video blogs and updates to the protesters outside from her iPhone. 

Outside, a growing crowd chanted angry slogans at police in riot gear and surrounded all the exits. After the UC police chief declared the protest “unlawful assembly”, some students slowly advanced toward the police barricade. A majority of students called for a sit-in and reiterated their desire for a peaceful demonstration.

“Just ‘cause I’m sittin’ down don’t mean I’m backing down!” they chanted. In the back of the crowd, some prepared for a possible altercation with the police with protection against pepper spray. 

UC Riverside student Wesley Porter said that police fired rubber bullets, paint guns and used batons against the students. 

“Some of the police felt they were being approached violently”, said Porter, the Southern regional vice president of the Student California Teachers’ Association, which helped fund the protest. 

“I saw people with different cuts and bruises from billy clubs,” Porter said. A spokesman for UC Riverside said that some officers also sustained minor injuries. 

Porter said that although he did not agree with the tactics of students who pushed up against the police barricade, he did not believe their actions weren’t a provocation of violence. He stressed a support for peaceful protest and said he believes that today’s events garnered the results they wanted.

“I believe we won,” he said, “They heard us. They know we’re not happy. Whether they listen to us or not, that’s another issue.”





Reach staff reporter Tasbeeh Herwees here. Follow her on Twitter.

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