Santa Monica College Students Pepper-Sprayed: Campus police douse tuition protesters

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

(CBS) SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Campus police pepper-sprayed a crowd of Santa Monica College students who were angry over a plan to offer high-priced courses and tried to push their way into trustees meeting on Tuesday, police said.

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

Students were angry because only a handful were allowed into the meeting. When their request to move the venue to a larger venue was denied, they began to enter the building, said David Steinman, a Green Party candidate for Congress.

When two officers were allegedly backed-up against a wall and a campus police officer reportedly lost his balance, and they began using force to keep the students out of the room. Steinman said both officers used pepper spray.

"People were choking and gasping," he said.

Santa Monica College spokesman Bruce Smith said he believed it was the first time pepper spray had been used to subdue students on campus.

"It was the judgment of police that the crowd was getting out of hand and it was a safety issue," he said.

Marioly Gomez, 21, said she was standing in a hallway outside the meeting with several hundred other students who wanted to get into the meeting.

"I got pepper-sprayed without warning," she said.

Students began running out of the hall as it filled with vapor.

CBS Los Angeles reports the board was forced to end the meeting and paramedics were called to treat the approximately 30 people affected.

Firefighters were also called to the campus at about 7:20 p.m. Five people were evaluated at the scene and two were taken to a hospital, Santa Monica Fire Department Capt. Judah Mitchell said. Their conditions were not known, but the injuries were not believed to be serious, Mitchell said.