A large group of students and a few faculty members attended the beginning of the meeting, which had a 20-minute public comment period. Regents Board Spokeswoman Sherry Lansing extended the comment period for another 20 minutes. When that time period ended, the students gave a speech about how they felt the regents were not representing the interests of students or workers at the University of California.
The students were upset because they were only given one minute of speaking time during the public comment session.
“It’s very patronizing and paternalistic the way they do it; they actually allow only one minute to each speaker and there is a timer that goes off promptly at one minute,” Ethnic Studies Ph.D. student Alborz Ghandehari said.
At the end of the public comment session, 18 of the students linked arms and invited the regents to hold a general assembly with them. The regents quickly walked out of the room before the students had finished speaking. Lansing stayed for a few more minutes to speak to the general assembly. She said their disruption had hindered the regents’ ability to devote attention to university problems.
Lansing also asked the police to clear the room of the protestors. Several feet away, about 30 police officers surrounded the protestors.
“Sherry left after her comment, and it just showed that the regents really had no intention of listening to student voices,” Ghandehari said. “And that when confronted with an actual public forum and an actual opening of dialogue they decided to leave — they actually conducted their meeting in another room and closed that meeting to the public.”
The protestors continued their meeting for 45 minutes, discussing their potential solutions for creating revenue, including a general agreement that they endorsed the millionaire tax initiative.
Ghandehari said it was important that students realize that tuition increases are unrestricted funds.
“What happens then is that these increases can be spent on increasing administrator salaries — for example — what happened at the last regents meeting,” Ghandehari said. “They increased the salaries of top administrators at the UCs who were already making over $250,000 a year and they used our tuition money to do that because it’s unrestricted funds.”
Outside of the HUB where the meeting was being held, 200 student protestors blocked the building entrances to stop the regents from prematurely exiting. Warren College third year David Aronson said there were police lines everywhere.
“I’ve never seen so many cops at a protest in my entire life,” Marshall College fourth year Iris Loughran said.
The sheriffs arrived with more officers at 1 p.m.
“Because of the sheriff’s arrival, we followed them to the new police line like we had done for every other police line, and I guess this line was not prepared for us,” Aronson said. “They just began attacking students.”
The officers used batons and riot guns that were firing paintball rounds.
“The police responded pretty brutally,” Loughran said. “I saw one cop, he had his hand on the trigger the entire time.”
After watching the Berkeley and Davis protests, the UC Riverside coalition came prepared for police violence. They brought shields to protect themselves. Loughran said the police tried to break through the protestors but were unable to because of the shields.
Protestors blocked the campus roadway when university and regents staff tried to leave for the day. Some even climbed on top of cars to prevent the regents from leaving.
Officials waited for two hours to avoid confrontation.
The police had to escort the staff out on foot through the exit with the least amount of protestors gathered. They had the hold area blocked off and vans were waiting to take the regents back to their hotels.
Two demonstrators were arrested for crossing police lines. A few officers maintained minor injuries from protest signs.
Protestors were primarily concerned with accountability and representation on Jan. 19.
The topic was the main concern during the public comment session in the morning and the general assembly that followed.
“If you look at the regents, you’ll see that many of them are super rich, hedge-fund owners of real estate companies and that they really have no credentials in education or the administration of education whatsoever,” Ghandehari said. “Why should we expect that these regents, that these top administrators are actually going to represent students and workers and faculty at our university?”
Students Protest Regents Meeting at UC Riverside
Protestors interrupted a Jan. 19 Regents meeting held at UC Riverside, resulting in a closed meeting and police violence.Written by Rebecca Horwitz
22 January 2012