Santa Monica College President Chui Tsang speaks out after pepper spray incident

Students are seen in this image running down the hall as it filled with pepper spray vapor.
CBS Los Angeles

(CBS) SANTA MONICA - Santa Monica College students and the school's president spoke out Wednesday regarding an incident involving campus police pepper spraying student protestors Tuesday.

CBS Los Angeles reports college President Chui Tsang said that he was launching an investigation into the incident.

Tsang released a statement that said although students broke the law by setting off fire alarms and disrupting a public meeting, there were no arrests. The president also said the school would cover the protesters' medical expenses incurred that night.

"Santa Monica College regrets that a group of people chose to disrupt a public meeting in an unlawful manner. The College has launched a full investigation into the matter. The College's action comes at a time when SMC is confronted with the greatest budget crisis ever to face higher education in California," Tsang said in the statement.

About 100 students had gathered outside a Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night, chanting "Shame on you," as board members discussed a plan to increase fees.

Video posted on the internet showed students chanting "Let us in, let us in" and "No cuts, no fees, education should be free."

A campus police officer tried to subdue the crowd with pepper spray, which filled the hallway with vapor, resulting in about 30 students needing treatment by paramedics.

The board then canceled their meeting and firefighters were also called to the campus. Five people were evaluated at the scene and two were taken to a hospital, Santa Monica Fire Department Capt. Judah Mitchell said.

The following day students gathered outside the college and continued their protests.

The students said they were demanding to have a say in a new course program that could begin as early as this summer. The program, which would be funded privately, would offer core courses at prices that would be three times the cost of state-funded courses.