About 300 University of California students and faculty gathered outside the UC Regents meeting this morning to protest proposed student fee increases and changes to employee retirement benefits. Thirteen people were arrested as protesters skirmished with police, including one person who was taken into custody for assault with a deadly weapon after hitting an officer with his own baton, police said. “It was an angry, unruly and aggressive crowd,” UCSF police Chief Pamela Roskowski said at a midday news conference after the protests had died down. About 50 protesters cornered a police officer in a parking garage next to the meeting, and one student took his baton, Roskowski said. The officer drew his gun after the student hit him on the head with the baton, and someone in the crowd said, “take his gun,” the chief said. Roskowski said she had reviewed video of the confrontation. “The officer showed great restraint,” she said. “The police conducted themselves very well.” Three officers were injured, including one who suffered a cut to his arm while a protester was attempting to use a barricade as a weapon, Roskowski said. No one was hospitalized. At about 9 a.m., a group of protesters crammed against a barricade at the front of William J. Rutter Center, where the meeting was being held. Police sprayed demonstrators with pepper spray and beat the crowd back with batons. “They didn’t give people a chance to leave. We don’t have anything to fight back with,” said Maria Belman, a UC Berkeley student who got pepper spray in her eye. Victor Mendez, a student at Pasadena City College, was one of those sprayed as he pushed the barricades near the front of the crowd. He was protesting fee increases in solidarity with state university and UC students. “The raises are just going to keep happening, and public education is going to be destroyed,” he said. Of the 13 people arrested, 11 are students, including seven UC Berkeley students, one from UC Davis, one from UC Santa Cruz, one Petaluma Community College student, and a UC Merced student who allegedly hit the officer with the baton, Roskowski said. Inside the regents’ meeting, several students from UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz, and UCLA spoke during the public comment period about how fee hikes are impacting their campuses. “Our campus is experiencing increases in unexpected ways – for example, student shoplifting so people can have food to go to school,” said Jasmine Hill, undergraduate student body president at UCLA. UC President Mark Yudof has proposed raising fees by 8 percent for the 2011-12 academic year, which means undergraduate fees would increase to $11,124 per year. He has also proposed that the university provide grants for undergraduates with household incomes of less than $120,000 to cover the fee increase for one year. Yudof said fee increases are necessary to keep the universities running. “We have $340 million of hardcore costs,” he said at this morning’s meeting. “You just can’t dance around them.” Some students who spoke at the meeting said the proposed fee hike
could force them to drop out of school. Yudof said he couldn’t understand students dropping out over the increase, which regents will vote on Thursday. “Anyone dropping out who is making less than $120,000 must be dropping out for other reasons,” he said. More faculty and staff outside the meeting protested the regents’ discussion of pension plan cuts. “They’re putting workers into abject poverty,” said Paul Haller, a building manager at UC Berkeley. “I’ve worked here for 27 years, and back then I didn’t think about retirement, but now it’s a lot more important.”
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