‘Occupy CUNY’: NYC Students Drop Books on Police in Chaotic Tuition-Hike Protest

Chaos erupted yesterday when students at the City University of New York (CUNY) engaged in a daylong protest rally against tuition increases. While some protesters claimed that the uproar, which ended in 15 arrests, was totally unrelated to the Occupy Wall Street movement, the tactics and chants employed seemed oddly reminiscent.

In a student-led protest during the day on Monday, students chanted, “Banks got bailed out, students got sold out” — a line that was taken almost word-for-word from the Occupy playbook. Denise Romero, a junior who helped organize the event, though, claims that the student protest is different from the Occupy movement. “We support them and they support us, but we are not affiliated,” she explained.

The protest began with some organizers from Students United for a Free CUNY, a group that believes that free education is a right. The coalition stands opposed to the city and state’s plans to raise tuition by $300 each year for the next five years.

On Monday evening, the situation elevated when protesters ignored police officers’ requests to clear out the lobby of a building at Baruch College, part of the CUNY system. The students arrived at the scene to protest a CUNY Board of Trustees meeting that was being held to address proposed tuition hikes. The official vote on the measure will take place next Monday.

The New York Times has more about the incident:

Carlos Pazmino, 21, a City College student who helped organize the protest, said that after students began opening doors to the auditorium where the CUNY trustees were to hold a public hearing at 5 p.m., CUNY police officers surrounded the entrances and pushed back, using their batons, and that when students formed a line to push past, the officers began hitting the students with the batons.

“I saw two people knocked down by cops,” Mr. Pazmino said. “They were arrested and one guy’s head was bleeding.”

From higher floors, the Times reports that students dropped books on police, as 200 to 300 protesters stood outside of the lobby and shouted “Shame!,” while pounding on the outside of the building.

To prevent further chaos inside of the trustees meeting, campus police restricted access and told the protesters that they would be arrested for trespassing.

Watch the chaos below:

Already, the CUNY system is among the most affordable public education systems around. This chart showcases the current annual rates within the system:

CUNY spokesman Michael Arena addressed the First Amendment issues surrounding the incident.

“There’s been plenty of exercise of free speech tonight, both on the street and in the room, but there comes a point where if our students can’t attend the classes that they need to get, that’s something that’s going beyond the opportunity of free speech,” he explained.

Here’s a report from Russia Today entitled, “Police Attack Occupy CUNY Students:”

Students are likely to continue their protests, as the Occupy movement rages on.

(H/T: The New York Times)

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