The U.C. regents meeting in San Francisco got out of hand early Wednesday.
NBC Bay Area's Christie Smith reports police used pepper spray on a crowd of protesters just after 9 a.m. Smith said it happened after protesters tried to get into the meeting through barricades that had been set up specifically to keep them out. At least a dozen people were arrested. Many of them were literally dragged away by police. Smith said the scene was extremely tense.
The officer who sprayed the crowd did it with a hose type object. Later campus police confirmed it held pepper spray.
Only people who had signed up ahead of time to speak to the regents were allowed in to the meeting and only if they had proper identification. They is apparently was sparked the initial uproar Wednesday.
Hundreds of people turned out at UCSF Mission Bay campus before sunrise to make their voices heard. Many were bused from campuses as far away as UCLA.
The issue that has things riled up is an expected 8 percent fee hike for the 2011-12 academic year. The increase would make student fees for California residents increase by $822 to $11,124. Regent say the increase would raise an estimated $180 million in annual revenue.
The trouble Wednesday so far was kept outside the actual meeting. The other issue on the agenda is a possible vote on changing retirement benefits. If approved, UC workers would be eligible to receive 100 percent of their benefits only after they reach age 65. Right now, the retirement age is 60.
Beyond the initial arrests for trying to break through a barricade, police said one student was arrested for investigation of assault with a deadly weapon after a campus police officer was hit with his own baton, campus police Chief Pamela Roskowski.
Roskowski said the officer was struck in the head after a group of protesters surrounded him in a parking garage and grabbed his baton. The officer drew his gun in self-defense and called for assistance. "It was an angry and unruly and aggressive crowd," Roskowski said during an afternoon news conference "He had drawn his weapon to protect himself. He was very concerned about his safety." The names of the suspect and officer were not immediately released.