SANTA CRUZ (CBS SF/AP) — Unrest grew on the campus of University of California, Santa Cruz Thursday after at least 17 people were arrested during the third day of a wildcat strike by graduate student instructors demanding higher pay.
Strikers and their supporters blocked High Street near the campus on Wednesday afternoon when police moved in.
Officers surrounded demonstrators sitting in circles in the intersection with their arms linked and dragged them away one by one. More demonstrators poured into the intersection and took the places of those being arrested in a tense standoff between hundreds of demonstrators and dozens of police.
“They (the police) took me down to the ground,” said undergrad student Ben Scheer. “(They)forced my hands behind my back and carried me away — four cops.”
Graduate student Brenna Byrd was among the demonstrators.
“When students were arrested, we voted to stay until they would release them,” she said.
Those arrested face charges including unlawful assembly, obstructing a public roadway and disobeying a lawful order, said UCSC spokesman Scott Hernandez-Jason.
“Officers repeatedly tried to de-escalate the situation and made clear that blocking this major roadway had to stop or it would lead to arrest,” Hernandez-Jason said in a statement. “Demonstrators locked arms, sat in the roadway, and refused to move back onto the university field.”
As part of the strike that started Monday, the graduate students won’t teach, hold office hours, do research or grade their students. The strike is a so-called wildcat strike, which means it is not endorsed by the union that represents the students. The UC system has a current labor contract with the UAW that covers all campuses.
The students started a grading strike in December, refusing to submit fall quarter grades until they get a $1,400 monthly raise. The average teaching assistant’s monthly salary is $2,400. An average one-bedroom apartment in Santa Cruz rents for $2,600 per month, according to RentCafé.