Authorities arrested 68 students and activists who refused to leave the California Capitol on Monday evening after a protest over cuts to higher education.
The demonstration, billed by some as an “Occupy the Capitol” act, attracted a large crowd estimated by many as thousands with about 200 reported to have made it inside the building in order to occupy the rotunda.
“We’re getting pushed against a wall,” UC Santa Cruz student Carson Watts, 23, said to the LA Times, noting that tuition has tripled at state universities over the last decade.
Gov. Jerry Brown, who signed a budget last year that slashed funding for the University of California and Cal State systems by 23%, did not attend the rally. But he said through a spokeswoman: “The students today are reflecting the frustrations of millions of Californians who have seen their public schools and universities eroded year after year. That’s why it’s imperative that we get more tax revenue this November,” a reference to his proposed ballot initiative to raise taxes.
The AP reports that nearly all of the 72 people arrested during this week’s protests have now been released, according to the California Highway Patrol. Police cited 66 of the 68 protesters for trespassing and released them about three hours later at a 24-hour Walmart in West Sacramento.
The odd release location was chosen in order to give protesters a chance to get a snack after being barricaded inside the Capitol for up to 12 hours, according to CHP Officer Sean Kennedy.
Two protesters were booked for passively resisting arrest and trespassing in addition to three women who tried to unfurl a banner inside the Capitol and a man who was arrested for carrying a switchblade.
Anneliese Harlander, 21, a junior at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was one of two protesters who went limp when police started the arrests. She remained in custody Tuesday afternoon, Sacramento Police Deputy Jason Ramos said.
An hour before officers dragged her across the rotunda floor, she described the protest as a “fight for my family.”
“I work two jobs seven days a week to make sure I can go to college,” said Harlander, a first-generation college student. “We need people who are willing to fight for our dreams and for universal education.”
Some protesters arrived at the occupation knowing the risks of such an action, like UC Berkley graduate student Chris Schildt, 29, who told the OC Register, “My intention coming here today was to get arrested.”
Schildt said she was fed up with rising cost of public higher education and wanted to make a statement after attending protests on campus and at UC Board of Regents meeting and getting the cold shoulder. “I’m tired of asking nicely,” she said.
The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Flock has a good blog post listing five reasons the students are protesting: tuition has nearly doubled in the past five years, California spends more than five times as much on its prison inmates than on its students, students are disheartened by lack of opportunities awaiting them, for many California students, Harvard and Yale are actually now cheaper than state schools, and some find themselves struggling to make ends meet with the average student carrying about $25,250 in debt.
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