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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A peaceful rally at City College of San Francisco turned violent on Thursday, as a group of protesters attempted to enter the school’s administration building, Conlan Hall, only to be met by campus police.
The rally was held to call on the school’s special trustee, Robert Agrella, to resign, and for the reversal of new policies that the group said discriminates against undocumented and poor students.
Around 1:30 p.m., the protesters tried to enter Conlan Hall, but campus police blocked the entrance to the building. The group eventually worked its way into the building, but were pushed back by campus police and officers with the San Francisco Police Department.
The physical confrontation included the use of both batons and pepper spray.
One of the students arrested was pepper sprayed during the protest at the college’s Ocean Avenue campus, and a second was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, according to City College spokesman Peter Anning.
Anning said he does not yet know whether the arrests or pepper spraying involved City College campus police or San Francisco police, who are also on the scene assisting.
KPIX 5 obtained exclusive video that shows a CCSF police officer lunging into a demonstrator, then swinging his baton at the knees of others.
Anya Komisaryk, 21, a Broadcast Journalism major at San Francisco State University, said the officer’s actions escalated the clash.
“I think the violence really got instigated by this one officer who physically attacked students,” Komisaryk said. “He is the core reason that this took a violent turn.”
“That was the height of escalation,” she said. “When he hit demonstrators, it just started getting worse and worse.”
The group Save CCSF Coalition said that the group of protesters would continue to hold a sit-in at the Ocean campus until Agrella steps down and the new payment policy is reversed.
Last year, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors installed Agrella as special trustee, stripping the elected City College board of trustees of their powers.
The change came after the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges announced it was revoking the school’s accreditation effective July 2014, citing problems with its finances and governance structure.
A judge has issued an injunction delaying the decision from taking effect until lawsuits filed against ACCJC by the city attorney’s office and the school’s faculty union can be resolved.
Students at Thursday’s rally said that in an effort to appease the accrediting commission, Agrella and other school officials have made changes that adversely affect them, primarily the implementation of a new payment policy that requires students to pay fees in full or sign up for a payment plan before registering for classes.
Itzel Calvo, an ethnic studies student, said she was unable to register this semester because she is an undocumented immigrant who would have to pay out-of-state fees totaling about $3,000 to sign up for classes.
“There was no student input whatsoever,” Calvo said of the new payment policy, which she said “keeps out students like myself from continuing their education.”
She called on City College to “end the dictatorship” of Agrella, who has unilateral power over decisions on the school’s rules and regulations.
Wendy Kaufmyn, an engineering instructor at the school, said Agrella has been “fostering the most negative relations between the college and its constituents that I can remember.”
“We want our board back,” Kaufmyn said. “They weren’t perfect, but we elected them.”
Iso Murillo, a women’s studies and LGBT studies student, talked about taking a large course load this semester because of uncertainty over City College’s future.
“I felt pressure to graduate before something bad happens to the school,” Murillo said. “It’s just been stressful, it’s not been fun.”
The students and faculty then marched to City College’s administration building in protest over Agrella and his policies.
Another rally is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Friday in advance of a Board of Supervisors committee hearing on Supervisor David Campos’ resolution, which is calling for the reinstatement of City College’s board of trustees.
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