Dozens arrested in Capitol education funds protest
SACRAMENTO — California Highway Patrol officers arrested dozens of protesters who refused to leave the state Capitol Monday night after repeated warnings, capping a day of protests over cuts to higher education that saw thousands descend upon Sacramento.
The CHP said 68 people were arrested Monday evening and four earlier in the day. The protesters who were arrested for refusing to leave will be charged with trespassing, CHP Capt. Andy Manard said.
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 they were lifted by the arms one by one, handcuffed with plastic ties and led away.
"We gave them about seven or eight opportunities to avoid arrest," Manard said. "We wanted to give them every opportunity to leave. Having that many arrests puts a stress on the jails too."
He said the protesters would be taken to the Sacramento County Jail. Those arrested were part of a boisterous daylong protest over state budget cuts to higher education that have led to steep tuition increases and fewer courses at California's public universities and colleges. Thousands swarmed the Capitol lawn, waving signs and chanting, "They say cut back, we say fight back."
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."
Organizers had hoped that 10,000 protesters would demonstrate against rising tuition rates and demand that state lawmakers restore funding for higher education. But the actual turnout fell short.
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 later arrested.
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.
A CHP helicopter circled overhead throughout the day and evening. Manard said there were 210 officers for Monday's events.
Protesters spent two hours debating in call and response whether to stay after 6 p.m. and get arrested. They developed a list of core demands to present to lawmakers, including taxing the rich, educating prisoners and funding free textbooks.
A statue of Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus was decorated with signs reading "Stop the fee increases" and "Occupy education."