Another day of protests played out at the state Capitol on Monday with thousands of demonstrators denouncing soaring higher education costs and a select group spending most of the day inside the rotunda to achieve one goal: getting arrested.
By the time the spectacle petered out Monday night, the California Highway Patrol tallied 68 arrests of people who refused to leave the Capitol rotunda after it closed at 6 p.m. Four others were arrested earlier, three on charges of creating a disturbance and one because he was carrying a switchblade, authorities said.
The main group of arrestees, who will be charged with trespassing, apparently felt they had made their point, although it was unclear at times exactly what that was.
The ballooning cost of attending public colleges and universities in California was the primary focus, but at times the leaderless Occupy movement supporters discussed issuing demands on a range of issues, from the repeal of Proposition 13 to being allowed to use Capitol restrooms during their sit-in.
Their supporters outside also sought permission to deliver pizzas to their colleagues inside, but the CHP declined to stand aside for delivery of the pies.
The protests lasted through the day and into the night before CHP officers began arresting people inside the Capitol around 7:30 p.m.
"We gave them more time than needed," said CHP Capt. Andy Menard, adding later, "We asked them to leave several times. We gave them every opportunity."
Despite the crowds that swarmed the Capitol grounds much of the day, law enforcement officials marked the day as a success, with no violence, tear gas or baton-wielding. That appeared to be due at least in part to a massive show of force that included hundreds of officers in riot gear and even police horses wearing plexiglas face shields.
At one point in the afternoon, about 100 CHP officers formed three lines in front of the building. Most were in riot gear, with chest protectors, face masks and guns at the hip. One row consisted of officers on horseback.
None of the demonstrators tried to force past the show of force, and some took the time to pose for photos standing next to the stern-faced officers.
Monday's events began in late morning, as several thousand students and supporters descended on Sacramento to rail against the cost of higher education and call for more state funding for public schools. Faced with ongoing budget shortfalls, legislators have slashed funding for California's three higher education systems in recent years, and the systems have responded by hiking tuition and fees while cutting classes, faculty and services.
Speakers at the late morning rally on the west steps of the Capitol captured the central theme of the day.
"Regardless of our backgrounds, we all have been wounded by these cuts," said Sydney Fang, a student senator at UC Berkeley. "Today we stand in solidarity as students, as workers and as community members because we have had enough. We have had enough."
Headlining the morning rally were some of the same Democratic leaders who negotiated and voted for the cuts to higher education funding. The protesters chanted "Show us! Show us!" as Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg voiced support for their cause.
Steinberg told the crowd which occasionally broke into chants of "you'll hear us out, or we'll vote you out" that he understood their anger.
"You have the right to be mad," Steinberg said. "Too many people are getting big tax breaks while the cost of higher education for you is going up."
But the politicians and their talking points were overshadowed by the zeal of the demonstrators, even those who in the end decided that getting arrested might not be the best choice to make.
Dominique Perry was in that camp. The San Francisco State University sophomore stayed inside the rotunda from 1 p.m. until nightfall, when a CHP officer on a bullhorn began ordering people to leave. Like many others, she complied.
"I decided I can't miss work for three days in a row," Perry said. "I have to protest. At the same time, I can't lose my job."
More than 350 demonstrators poured into the Capitol and had lengthy discussions about whether to stay and face arrest, with their conversations beamed worldwide via live streaming on the Internet. By the time the building closed, most had filtered out, leaving the 68 diehards inside who discussed the proper techniques to use when being taken into custody.
"I think we're getting the message across," Jose Gutierrez, a student at CSU Monterey, said about an hour before he was arrested. "That is the first step to changing things: You have to make people aware."