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Video: Students Protest UC Regents Meeting in Riverside, Police Fire Pepper Balls at Protesters

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A protest at the UC Regents meeting in Riverside yesterday devolved into a clash with police that resulted in two arrests and campus police firing pepper balls at protesters.

Students were on the UC Riverside campus to protest tuition hikes and ask UC Regents to demand more funding from the state. Protesters were given 20 minutes to speak before the finance meeting, Neon Tommy reported. They proposed a millionaire’s tax, revamping Proposition 13 and taxing oil producers, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported, adding that tuition has increased from $3,429 a year in 2001-2002 to $13,200 this year. Some of the students were local, but others were bused in from as far away as Berkeley and San Diego.

Nearly 100 officers from the Riverside Police Department and Riverside County Sheriff's Department joined 100 UC campus officers already on the scene outside the Regents' meeting, the Press-Enterprise reported. The UC police chief declared an unlawful assembly outside the meeting, Neon Tommy reported, and protesters gradually moved forward toward the line of riot police. Some of the protesters called for a sit-in, but videos show there were clashes as police put up metal barricades.

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Anthony Lascano,19, of Los Angeles was struck by pepper balls, which can be seen in the video above at 4:05. He told the Press-Enterprise, "I saw another woman protest(er) getting touched by officers, so we moved one of the barricades we were using over to defend ourselves against the police. They started pulling the barricade away, (and) one of them opened fire with the paint gun."

UC Riverside Police Chief Michael Lane told the Press-Enterprise that the pepper balls were used "to protect a fellow officer from getting seriously injured...It's unfortunate we had to deal with a situation like that. We tried to be patient and restrained. In a difficult situation the officers did a great job when they faced that kind of active aggression."

The Press-Enterprise has a video of the clash from a different angle on its site (embedding is not allowed) that shows one protester being dragged away by police around the 1:25-minute mark.

Two protesters were arrested, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported: Kenneth Ehrlich, 39, of Los Angeles, and Humberto Rivera, 25, of Corona, were each booked for a felony assault on a police officer. One of them was booked for hitting an officer with a handheld sign, and another for hitting an officer with a metal barricade.

The regents left the meeting out a back door and some of the protesters were able to run around and meet them from the other side.

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UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy P. White told the Press-Enterprise that he blamed the arrests on a handful of overly aggressive students, and he didn't like the profanity hurled at the regents (in the video above). But he said he sympathized with the students and said their struggles reminded him of his own when he went to UC Berkley decades before:

"When I go back to the '60s and '70s, I felt the same way. When you have a chance to talk to these students, they’re concerned about their own situation and their debt load, but they are desperately concerned about their younger sisters and brothers and their own (future) children. They’re not that selfish. It’s about others."