SACRAMENTO — A day of boisterous protests over cuts to higher education that included thousands of students swarming the state Capitol ended with dozens of arrests after demonstrators refused to leave the building.
Authorities on Monday evening arrested 68 people, most of whom will be charged with trespassing, the California Highway Patrol said. Four people were arrested earlier in the day.
Police started pulling out protesters who remained in the Capitol rotunda around 7:30 p.m., more than an hour after they began warning them with a bullhorn to leave.
Protesters chanted “We’re doing this for your kids,” as one by one they were lifted by the arms, handcuffed with plastic ties, and led away.
Students angry over steep tuition increases and fewer courses at California’s public universities and colleges waved signs and chanted, “They say cut back; we say fight back.”
Tuition has nearly doubled in the past five years, to $13,000 for resident undergraduates at University of California schools and to $6,400 at California State University schools. Community college fees are set to rise to $46 per unit by this summer, up from $20 per unit in 2007.
Students, administrators and faculty from UC Davis were among those who took part in the rally and lobbying efforts.
David Roddy, a junior animal biology major, said he was encouraged by the turnout in Sacramento.
“A massive number of Californians are sick of the current system part in regard to funding higher education,” he said. “Hopefully, this display of humanity will sway our politicians to a more progressive course over the next couple of years.”
CBS 13 reported that two student protesters who were among those pepper-sprayed by UCD police on Nov. 18 were detained by the California Highway Patrol for carrying signs that looked like metal shields. Roddy said he knew of one UCD student who had been cited for a misdemeanor.
UCD Vice Chancellor Fred Wood walked alongside protesters and listened to student speakers on the Capitol steps talk about the impact of cuts and tuition increases on their lives of themselves and their families, as well as on the state’s workforce and economic future.
“It’s important for their passion and their voices to be heard by the state government because they’re the ones that are being personally impacted by the defunding and the higher fees,” Wood said, adding, “I hope the legislators get an earful and really listen.”
Building up to Monday’s day of action, protesters camped on UCD’s Quad throughout the weekend. UCD estimated 15 to 20 people stayed in tents there overnight Saturday and about 100 on Sunday. Organizers placed Sunday’s number closer to 150.
Among those camping on the Quad were UC Berkeley and San Francisco State students who walked from the Bay Area in what they dubbed the “99-mile march.”
On Monday morning, some protesters marched from Davis to Sacramento, while others climbed aboard buses to join the hundreds of others massing for a march through downtown Sacramento.
Democratic lawmakers addressed the group and lamented the deep cuts to higher education they have made in recent years.
“We were expecting to have a good future, but things are looking uncertain for a lot of families,” said Alison Her, 19, a nursing student at California State University, Fresno. “I’m the oldest in my family, and I want my siblings to be able to go to college, too.”
After the rally, hundreds of students lined up to enter the Capitol and filled conference rooms and hallways inside. Some met with lawmakers to lobby for increased funding for higher education, while others headed for the rotunda.
CHP officers allowed several hundred students to settle on the black and white marble floor of the rotunda before all four hallway entrances to the area were blocked. Another hundred students sat down in a hallway, communicating with fellow protesters by call and response.
Several lawmakers watched from a second-floor balcony as the protesters were arrested later.
Outside the Capitol, hundreds of protesters who had lingered into the evening disbursed after the arrested protesters were taken away in vans. Officers in riot gear guarded the underground exits where they were taken out.
Earlier in the day, three women were arrested for disobeying an officer’s order after trying to unfurl a banner on the second floor. A man was arrested outside the building for being in possession of a switchblade knife, the CHP said.
Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement that the protest highlights the need for California voters to approve a tax increase he has proposed for the November ballot.
“The students today are reflecting the frustrations of millions of Californians who have seen their public schools and universities eroded year after year,” said Brown, a Democrat. “That’s why it’s imperative that we get more tax revenue this November.”
Brown’s initiative would fund education and public safety programs by temporarily raising income taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year and temporarily increasing the sales tax by half a cent.
The University of California Student Association has endorsed a rival initiative that would tax millionaires and earmark the revenue for education. The California Federation of Teachers and state PTA support that initiative.
Buses brought hundreds of students in for Monday’s march from as far away as UC Riverside, 450 miles south of Sacramento.