The dozens of student protesters who were pepper-sprayed by police at a California community college weren't just angry about not getting into a meeting of school trustees.
They were fuming about a Santa Monica College plan that would let students who did not get into a needed, high-demand course take the class anyway, but only if they paid hundreds of dollars more.
Tuesday night, the emotions boiled over at the meeting.
And a day later, the state agency that oversees the state's community colleges called on the attorney general to judge whether the plan was legal. Agency officials also called for the college to temporarily halt the program.
The college has said the summer pilot program is an attempt to fund some popular state-required classes in an era of declining aid.
Critics say the plan will create a caste system favoring wealthy students and runs contrary to the idea of community colleges as a gateway into the middle class.
The school is one of the state's largest two-year colleges, with an enrollment of roughly 30,000 students. About 1,100 classes out of 7,430 have been slashed since 2008.
As a result, students can't get the courses they need to graduate. They have held protests before but wanted to be heard and seen by trustees Tuesday night, students said. They were upset because only a handful of them were allowed into the meeting.
When their request to move the meeting to a larger venue was denied, they began to enter the room, said David Steinman, an environmental advocate.
The clash, parts of which were videotaped and posted online, occurred in a narrow hallway packed with shouting protesters.
Two officers were apparently backed up against a wall and began using force to keep the students out of the room. Steinman said both officers used pepper spray.
In a statement, college President Chui Tsang said that despite people engaging in unlawful conduct, including setting off fire alarms, police made no arrests.