The pepper-spraying of dozens of student protesters at a Board of Trustees meeting at Santa Monica College could have been prevented had administrators moved the meeting to a larger venue and equipped campus police with more resources, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
The newspaper has obtained an internal report prepared by the campus police department, which relied on interviews and video of the chaotic episode.
“Ultimately, the confrontation would never have occurred if the Police Department’s earlier request for a larger venue through proper channels, in March 2012, had not been denied,” the report concluded, according to the Times.
Student protestors later said they had also requested the meeting be held in a larger venue.
comprised of the college’s head counsel, a student trustee, nursing professor, dean and trustee are reviewing the report as a part of its investigation. The panel’s findings will be made public as early as this month, college spokesman Bruce Smith has said.
In what one college leader called a “black eye on the college,” three were hospitalized and as many as 30 treated for pepper-spray exposure after a campus police officer, identified by the Times as Sgt. J.B. Williams, deployed pepper spray to quell a crowd of demonstrators who appeared ready to storm into the board’s at-capacity meeting room.
The report states Williams discharged “three short bursts” of pepper spray after repeatedly “imploring the crowd to cooperate.”
More than 100 demonstrators in opposition to a controversial plan to roll out a second tier of higher priced courses not subsidized by the state. Many of them were seated in an adjacent overflow room, but a group of about 30 were packed just outside the boardroom’s doorway.
Williams fired pepper-spray after the pack tried to push past him and into the room.
The board has subsequently convened its public meetings in a much larger venue.
Trustees and Superintendent Chui Tsang were in a board meeting Thursday evening and were not immediately available to comment on the report’s findings.
"It may be that you will conclude… that it was an inescapable necessity [to use pepper spray], but I’m not convinced of that,” Trustee David B. Finkel told administrators the night of the incident.