SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Dozens of protesters remained inside the state Capitol Monday night after California Highway Patrol officers shut down the building and were arrested after ignoring repeated orders to leave.
The CHP said 68 people were arrested Monday evening and four earlier in the day. The protesters who were arrested for refusing to leave will be charged with trespassing, CHP Capt. Andy Manard said.
The number dwindled from about 100 after California Highway Patrol officers gave the first order to leave. They gave at least four dispersal orders after the Capitol’s 6 p.m. closing time but didn’t start making arrests until after 7:30 p.m., according to CBS13’s Derek Shore.
“We gave them about seven or eight opportunities to avoid arrest,” Manard said. “We wanted to give them every opportunity to leave. Having that many arrests puts a stress on the jails too.”
Several of the protesters went limp as officers dragged them out of the building, Shore says. Each time one of them was arrested, the rest would cheer.
The number of police soon outnumbered the protesters, who chanted “No cuts, no fees, education must be free.” They were part of a daylong protest over state budget cuts to education.
One protester left right before CHP officers started making arrests, saying he didn’t want to miss class on Tuesday. “I stayed as long as I could,” he said.
Earlier in the day, some of the thousands of students protesting at the state Capitol moved inside and were occupying the rotunda as the police presence intensified.
About 300 people were inside the rotunda before police blocked it off, some sitting on the floor. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Senator Darrell Steinberg were among those mingling with the students inside.
“The students today are reflecting the frustrations of millions of Californians who have seen their public schools and universities eroded year after year,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in released statement. “That’s why it’s imperative that we get more tax revenue this November.”
The CHP, which is in charge of security at the Capitol, blocked any more students from entering the rotunda, saying there the area had reached capacity allowed by the fire code.
However, the Capitol stayed open and people were starting to line up in the halls.
Organizers had estimated 10,000 people would participate in the “Fund Our Future” march and rally.
“We really want to improve our lives, but unfortunately we can’t when fees keep getting raised,” said protester Sabrina Root, who attends Sierra College.
Law enforcement officers lined up en masse on streets near the Capitol, and a CHP helicopter flew overhead as protesters converged at the building.
CHP officers detained a couple of protesters for carrying signs that looked like metal shields. Ironically, the two detained students were among the 19 people pepper-sprayed on the campus of UC Davis back in November.
The Sacramento Chapter of the Guardian Angels said its members were on hand “acting as additional eyes and ears for the police.”
The protesters want the governor and Legislature to raise taxes on the wealthy and use that money on public education.
Monday’s Capitol rally comes four days after college students held rallies, marches, walkouts and teach-ins at about 30 campuses across California.
Organizers say the demonstrations were organized to coincide with state budget negotiations.
The massive protest comes one week after two officers were hurt in a clash between members of the Occupy movement and a pro-white group at the Capitol.