California Highway Patrol Arrests Protesters at State Capitol

by David Siders
Bee Capitol Bureau 

May 9, 2011

About 65 teachers and students protesting budget cuts at the Capitol were arrested this evening after the building closed and California Highway Patrol officers warned them repeatedly to leave.

The crowd chanted "shame on you" as protesters were led off one by one, mostly without incident. All were booked into the Sacramento County Jail on misdemeanor trespassing charges, CHP spokesman Sean Kennedy said. He said two or three of the protesters also face charges of resisting arrest.

The daylong protest, organized by the California Teachers Association, drew about 1,000 protesters for various activities. About 150 moved into the rotunda in late afternoon, and some of them refused to leave at the 6 p.m. closing time.

"We're not just here to lobby," Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association, told the crowd before the arrests took place. "We're here to raise some hell."

Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and of peace activist Cindy Sheehan's group Peace of the Action monitored the demonstration and said booking the protesters into jail was unwarranted. They said protesters should instead have been cited and released.

"It's ridiculous," said Gregory Vickrey of Peace of the Action. "This was clearly a nonviolent event."

Kennedy said the CHP takes "the security of this building seriously." Protesters throughout the evening were given the option to leave on their own, he said.

Protesters linked arms and sang songs in the Capitol rotunda, the arrests coming in spurts as officers waited for vans to take protesters to a CHP office and return. Protesters' wrists were bound in plastic ties before they were taken in groups in an elevator to a van waiting downstairs.

An officer issuing warnings with a bullhorn - "The Capitol is closed," he said - could hardly be heard over the protesters' chants. One protester danced in front of him as he spoke.

The crowd chanted "CHP join us!" during a lull in arrests.

A CHP officer filmed the demonstration and the arrests. Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, looked down on the protest from a second floor railing before officers started arresting protesters.

Mike Parker, a community college teacher who was among those arrested, said the protest was to provide a "moral witness...What's happening in this society is totally out of kilter."

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