SAN FRANCISCO -- Dozens of college students from around Northern California crammed into a branch of the Bank of America as part of an afternoon protest march through downtown San Francisco today and chanted "shame, shame" as about 100 of them were arrested over more than two hours.
The protesters denounced University of California regents, calling them rich people who are callous to the economic woes of public higher education.
Marchers rushed into the bank at Davis and California streets at about 2:10 p.m., where about 200 of them stood on desks and chairs and honked an air horn while they chanted slogans. Several workers fled and after several minutes many of the demonstrators went outside to rejoin another 200 people waving signs on the sidewalk.
The 75 left inside erected a single tent on the floor, then sat down and linked arms. About 4 p.m. a phalanx of San Francisco police officers began taking them into custody, leading them handcuffed to a waiting sheriff's van outside.
Authorities said the protesters would be charged with trespassing.
"Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" several chanted. One activist urinated in a corner of the bank office.
There was a brief skirmish outside while police moved some protesters back with batons to get them away from a line of officers, but nobody appeared to have been injured, authorities said.
"Today in this building more people will be arrested than all of the bankers during the financial crisis," one demonstrator yelled.
The activists said one reason they targeted Bank of America is that UC Regent Monica Lozano is on the Bank of America Board of Directors. They passed out copies of a flyer with her picture on it and the words "Meet the 1 percent." They blame regents for consistently raising tuition and fees in response to deep cuts in state funding.
The action was part of an afternoon-long downtown march and rally involving about 400 students who bused in from as far away as UC Merced.
They had intended to picket a UC regents meeting today in San Francisco. But that meeting was canceled for fear of violence, and the demonstrators targeted businesses instead.
Organizers from Occupy Cal and ReFund California, citing known affiliations between several regents and big businesses, say the regents are part of the nation's wealthiest "1 percent," who are derided by Occupy movements as representing greed and economic inequity.
Gaston Lau, a 21-year-old student at City College of San Francisco, said he went to UC Berkeley last year but had to switch to the community college because he couldn't afford UC tuition and fees of $13,218 a year.
"Once the Occupy movement took off, it re-energized a student movement that had been demoralized and beaten down," Lau said. "We are in this deep, deep hole, but the system has a crack in it right now and our job is to open up that crack."
The protesters started with an hour of speeches at the Occupy SF camp at Justin Herman Plaza. At about 1:15 p.m. they all headed north on the Embarcadero, turning left on Broadway and into the Financial District.
On their way to Bank of America, the demonstrators sat down at several locations, including outside the office of investment banker and regent Richard Blum and at a branch of Wells Fargo. They paused to scream at the walls of a Citibank branch.
As the arrests at Bank of America progressed, most of the outside protesters continued their march. They ended up at the state building on Golden Gate Avenue near City Hall, where speakers railed against greed until about 6 p.m. to a crowd of about 200 people.
Then the crowd loaded into a line of buses to head back home.
Most of the day's demonstrators were students from the UC campuses in Berkeley, Davis, Santa Cruz and Merced. Also represented were students from California State University campuses in San Francisco and Fresno and City College of San Francisco.
About 25 students from Cal State East Bay staged a rally this afternoon on their Hayward campus in sympathy with the San Francisco marchers, erecting a canopy on the main outdoor stage and giving speeches for about an hour before police removed the canopy.
Campus President Leroy Morishita last week issued an order prohibiting tents on campus, but students said Wednesday they will appeal to the student Life and Leadership Department for a permit to install tents as part of a protest.
"We're trying to handle things peacefully," campus spokesman Barry Zepel said.
At the same time, a handful of Occupy Cal protesters at UC Berkeley were maintaining a small encampment on the steps of the Sproul Hall administration building in defiance of university orders not to erect tents.
Campus officials have given no deadline for the tents to be taken down.
Chronicle Staff Writer Erin Allday contributed to this report.