Green Congressional candidate David Steinman got pepper-sprayed at Santa Monica College. Â The increased fees will not help the college but instead go to feed the bloated state budget, he says. Worse, the much more expensive fees on some classes (which are needed to graduate) means well-off students will be able to pay but low income students won’t, or they will go into debt to do so. I used to live near SMC which was once a friendly little community college in the liberal / progressive bastion of Santa Monica. I guess those days are gone. The SMC Board of Trustees by their ignorant and deliberately repressive actions have guaranteed that Occupy will come to SMC.
On Tuesday April 3 at around 7 PM, a riot broke out on the Santa Monica College campus. The Board of Trustees for the college is completely to blame. Don’t blame the students. I was there. I was maced. I saw everything.
The students are of every color and every race. The students are only asking for democracy and justice. The Board of Trustees disrespected the students. The students—there were hundreds—met in front of the library about an hour before the Board of Trustees was to meet. They had grievances. Stupidly, the Board is backing a plan to charge $200 a unit for some courses, whereas right now most courses cost around $36.00. The trouble is the courses for which the higher fees are proposed to be charged—and it certainly looks like a done deal—are those in high demand and ones that the students need to complete their studies.
The students are not rich. They are all different colors of humanity but I can tell you from being among them they are not wealthy—and one thing they don’t want, nor do I, is to further perpetuate a wealthy vs. poor scenario. The wealthy students will obviously be able to afford the higher fees. The poor students won’t be able to and if they try to get the more expensive classes, they will go further into debt.
Community college education, according to the California Master Plan of 1960, was supposed to be tuition-free. Community colleges are the way kids fight their way into the middle class. But now even these colleges are being given away to the wealthy. All the students wanted was to attend the Board of Trustees meeting and speak on the agenda. The cowardly out of touch Board of Trustees knew far in advance how important this issue was going to be and that there would be a lot of students. For this reason, they had asked the Santa Monica Police to show up including Sergeant J.B. Williams, the main perpetrator in the macing of the students.
The students marched carrying signs and shouting, “Always United Never Divided,” from the library to the business building where the meeting was to be held. And this is where the board was cowardly. They knew the students wanted to contest this tuition hike but instead of holding their meeting in a room large enough to accomodate the students, who lives they are affecting, the Board decided to hold its meeting in which only 45 people could be admitted—and to make matters worse about 20 of those people were administrators and assistants, meaning very few of the students could actually sit in on the meeting.
Williams tried to tell the students they could watch the meeting on a video monitor in the overflow room but that a violation of the fire code would occur if they all went into the actual room. He never mentioned a violation of their rights of the desecration of our democracy. But that wasn’t satisfying anybody. After all, they weren’t really going to be at the meeting, then. The Board wouldn’t see their expressions or face the heat of hundreds of upset students. Cowards, I tell you. And fools. I began snapping pictures and videotaping. I was right there with them, shouting, “Close the Meeting Down.”
The anger was everywhere, students crowding in on the double doors, the police trying to hold them back. The students talked among themselves and took turns addressing each other on the bullhorn. They respectfully asked Williams to go to the board and ask them to move the meeting to a larger room. All they wanted was to participate, not to be so absolutely disrespected. But instead Williams began letting in the chosen few of the 45 (who had been given numbered cards). Big mistake. When he opened the door, we rushed the door to go inside. The cops began manhandling the women first throwing them up against the walls, choking them, and as people saw what was happening, we all rushed toward the door.
Williams was bulldozed against the wall, panicked—and he pulled out his mace and began spraying the women and the men and the students and any children there. My campaign manager Nnaemeka Alozie was sprayed most heavily. I was sprayed heavily. Soon, many people were being sprayed. The anger grew and the cops began disappearing, afraid of the people? Is this a new spring? A new awakening? Obviously it is.