University of California police became iconic "bad guys" of the Occupy Wall Street movement back in fall, when an officer from UC Davis pepper-sprayed a peaceful line of protesters directly in the eyes as they sat, motionless, on the ground. (That incident has since been ridiculed, memed and Christmas-sweatered into the halls of Internet infamy.)
And the board of directors for the nine-campus university system, called the UC Regents, have likewise pitted themselves against the 99 percent:
Every one of their meetings since the Occupy movement began has either been outfitted with a SWAT team the size of a small city or cancelled entirely, apparently in fear of crazed student hooligans trampling the guards and knocking down the castle gates.
Which beings us to yesterday's Regents meeting on the UC Riverside campus. Eager for something to protest in this post-raid limbo (and always a huge proponent of accessible higher education), Occupy L.A. showed up to support UC students in their resistance to egregious, unrelenting tuition hikes.
Things got way out of control. This is some of the most dramatic footage we've seen from any Occupy demonstration:
It appears hundreds -- if not thousands -- of protesters showed up to decry the fee hikes. We're stoked to see OWS momentum still going so strong, despite the media's waning interest in all things Occupy. (And the existence, already, of retrospective Occupy L.A. art shows.)
But does it signal a shift toward aggression on the part of occupiers? The majority of YouTube commenters focus not on the police behavior -- which is definitely scary, rubber bullets and all -- but the protester behavior that prompted the pushback.
According to the Press-Telegram, "police said protesters were using the metal barricades as weapons against them; protesters said they moved the barricades to defend themselves against police."
A total of 200 officers from the UC Police Department, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and Riverside Police Department reportedly showed up to guard the nervous 1-percenters inside. More from the P-T:
At least one protestor was hit by non-lethal pepper-ball projectiles fired by university police. Three protestors were arrested, and two of them were later booked.
Early in the day, activists dislodged the regents from their meeting room by initiating a boisterous sit-in. The tactic delayed the meeting for a little more than an hour and prompted the regents to expel most of the public from the remainder of the day's proceedings.
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Most concerning is that police didn't seem to use much discretion. You've seen one protester, you've seen them all, right? A Facebook user by the name of Evan Samuel Heimlich posts the following to Occupy UC Riverside's wall:
Yesterday while he was videotaping their violence, the police arrested Professor Ken Erlich of UCR's Media Studies Department. According to Professor Chris Chase-Dunn, the police booked Ken Erlich for felony assault on an officer. Supporters posted his bail.
Yikes. We're contacting the university for more on the professor's arrest.