Football rally bonfire is non-fire as UCLA students decry tuition hikes

After tuition protests interrupt rally, UCLA's Beat 'SC bonfire becomes non-fire

UCLA's annual bonfire rally for Saturday's football game against USC was canceled Thursday night after students protesting tuition hikes surrounded the wood pile, authorities said.

At least 50 students gathered around the would-be bonfire starting about 4:30 p.m. They circled the woodpile and waved signs to protest fee hikes approved earlier in the day by the UC regents, said Lt. Richard Davis of the UCLA Police Department.

The demonstrators refused to leave even as the rally began, ignoring boos from the crowd. There were no arrests, Davis said.

"There were no issues or problems. You could risk a confrontation, but they have a 1st Amendment right to protest," he said. 

The bonfire has been canceled at least once before because of bad weather.

UCLA football Coach Jim Mora tried to rally the crowd anyway, as seen in videos posted on social media.

"We don't need a freaking fire to get it ... turned up!" Mora shouted.

He later returned to apologize for using an expletive.

Earlier Thursday, the UC regents approved a series of tuition hikes that could increase the cost of a UC education by as much as 28% over the next five years. The move sparked protests at various UC campuses.

UC President Janet Napolitano says the fee hikes will pay for rising payroll and retirement costs, hiring faculty, enrolling more students and increasing financial aid.

Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, both regents, voted against the measure.

The governor, a critic of high executive salaries at UC, has announced his intention to form a special committee to examine the UC's finances and possibly cut costs.

Follow me @frankshyong

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
53°