Santa Monica College Officials Investigating Pepper-Spray Protest Clash

Tuesday night's protest at Santa Monica College ended when police released pepper spray

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    Georgia Lorenz, dean of academic affairs, explains the plan that sparked a student protest Tuesday at Santa Monica College. Annette Arreola reports from Santa Monica. (Published Wednesday, April 4, 2012)

    Campus police and school officials are looking into Tuesday night's chaotic scene during a protest over a plan that would increase the cost of core courses at Santa Monica College. 

    About 30 protestors were pepper-sprayed outside the board of trustees meeting room, where a larger group had gathered as trustees considered a plan that involves the formation of a nonprofit that would offer high-demand core courses at an increased price.

    Santa Monica Protest Ends With Pepper Spray

    [LA] Santa Monica Protest Ends With Pepper Spray
    Santa Monica College student Christine Deal says a police officer grabbed her by the neck and wouldn't let go during an ordeal on campus that ended with pepper spray, 30 injuries and two protesters being sent to the hospital. Robert Kovacik reports from Santa Monica. (Published Wednesday, April 4, 2012)

    At least one trustee called on campus officials to investigate Tuesday's events. School officials and campus police told NBC4 they are looking into the altercation.

    "I think it gave the college a black eye, which I know it didn't deserve and certainly didn't need,'' said trustee David Finkel.

    Only about 12 students were allowed in the meeting room. Video showed some of the 100 demonstrators outside the meeting approach the doors to the room and chant, "Let us in! Let us in!"

    "The crowd was getting out of hand," said college spokesman Bruce Smith. "There was a safety issue. A couple of students had sort of broken into the boardroom. It was a judgment call and a question of safety."

    No arrests were reported. Three people were hospitalized. The board chair said the college would pay for medical bills incurred by student involved in Tuesday's clash.

    "We were just trying to go in, be heard," said student Christian Cordova. "Police weren't letting us, and it escalated."

    The subject of the protest, extra classes that would be offered during the summer, would provide students with more options, according to school officials.

    "We have classes where, at the beginning of any term, we have 45 students enrolled and 45 more waiting in the hallway waiting to crash the class and get a seat," said Georgia Lorenz, dean of academic affairs. "We're just trying to open up opportunities for the student to complete their education programs."

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