LONG BEACH (CBS) — Two officers were wounded and four demonstrators arrested when a protest Wednesday against a proposed CSU tuition hike erupted in violence.
The confrontation between police and protesters escalated outside the CSU chancellor’s office after board members shut down their open meeting and forced out demonstrators who were shouting obscenities.
Amy Schor, an organizer for ReFund California was caught in the melee.
“The police were extremely aggressive,” said Schor. “The crowd here was non-violent.”
Outside the chancellor’s office, protesters pushed back as they were forced from the building, eventually injuring officers and shattering a glass door.
Police used pepper spray on the crowd, but say demonstrators sprayed them first.
A Long Beach police strike force arrived in riot gear to assist CSU police officers.
Cal State says many of the demonstrators were not students, but were member of various activist groups who were bussed in for the protest.
After the initial scene caused by protesters forced a recess, the board meeting was reconvened in another room. Members then voted 9 to 6 in favor of a nine percent tuition hike, as protesters and police continued to battle outside.
“Tuition now is $5,472 for an undergraduate academic year,” said Robert Turnage, CSU’s assistant vice chancellor of budget. “So now it will go to $5,970.”
Some question whether the vote held behind closed doors broke state laws.
CSU spokesperson Claudia Keith said “the board cleared the room, and by law are still able to adjourn in open session to adjacent room to conduct the board’s business.”
Laws governing public meetings allow for the removal of disruptive speakers. However, members of the media claim they were told only that there would be an indefinite recess, and were not informed once the meeting was reconvened.
“It’s a very small room in capacity,” said Keith. “It is an open session; media could have been in there.”
CBS2/KCAL9’s Serene Branson pressed Keith, saying the media was unaware the meeting was reconvened, and were left outside with police.
Keith told Branson, “It was a little bit of a chaotic situation.”
California’s lieutenant governor and Cal State board member, Gavin Newsom called the board’s choice to continue the meeting outside the presence of the public or media alarming.
“I fear we are unintentionally inflaming the widespread confusion and acrimony around the issue,” said Newsom.
CSU insists members of the public were inside the meeting, but Newsom disputes that claim and has called for a new vote.