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Deltopia 2014: What Happened?

UCSB’s Annual Springtime Street Party Ends With Tear Gas and Rubber Bullets After Party Goers Assault Police

Police officers in riot gear deployed tear gas, foam and rubber bullets, a long-range-acoustic device and more in order to disperse crowds on and around Del Playa Drive. Residents were ordered to remain inside.

Police officers in riot gear deployed tear gas, foam and rubber bullets, a long-range-acoustic device and more in order to disperse crowds on and around Del Playa Drive. Residents were ordered to remain inside. Benjamin Pu/Daily Nexus

Tear gas, broken glass and police in riot gear filled the streets of Isla Vista Saturday night when the day’s Deltopia activities turned violent after an unknown partygoer attacked a UCSB Police Department officer, causing a crowd to form and prompting law enforcement to declare the crowd an “unlawful assembly.”

Santa Barbara County Sheriff spokesperson Kelly Hoover said the “civil unrest” began on the 6700 block of Del Playa Drive at approximately 9:30 p.m. when the officer was struck in the head with a backpack containing bottles of alcohol. The annual event drew an estimated 15,000 people this year, with law enforcement arresting over 100 people throughout the day, including 18 during the unrest, and 44 people were transported to the hospital for injuries.

The officer who was first assaulted had been attempting to break up a fight when he was knocked down, and onlookers began throwing rocks and bottles as reinforcements arrived, according to Hoover. The violence soon spread to other areas of Isla Vista, with participants continuing to throw objects at police, burning mattresses, ripping up stop signs, destroying car windshields and damaging police vehicles. Law enforcement formed a barricade and dispersed crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets while participants threw bottles, bricks and rocks and moved dumpsters and trash cans into the street.

A Santa Barbara County Sherriff department officer announced repeatedly that those present were part of an “unlawful assembly” and warned bystanders to go indoors while crowds in the street chanted “Fuck the police” and “U.S.A.” Members of law enforcement arrived to assist from as far away as UC Irvine, and police in riot gear used BearCat vehicles employing a long-range-acoustic-device to push party-goers out of Del Playa. Once police cleared Del Playa, they began to move toward neighboring Sabado Tarde Road, Camino Pescadero and Camino del Sur, barricading entrances to Del Playa and advancing north while crowds chanted.

Aaron Vargas, a student at Santa Barbara City College, said police with riot gear came as a surprise to him, and many of those participating in the riot had no idea how the incident began.

“They were mobbing down DP, and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the police shot tear gas and said some stuff over the intercom, ‘You guys are unlawful,'” said Vargas. “So we started saying ‘fuck the police,’ and then more tear gas. It was just crazy man.”

A crowd forms in front of a line of police on Del Playa Drive. Benjamin Pu/Daily Nexus

A crowd forms in front of a line of police on Del Playa Drive. Benjamin Pu/Daily Nexus

Hoover stated no deaths were reported and denied claims that an officer was stabbed in the eye as a “rumor,” but said six officers were injured in the unrest, including the one struck by a backpack, one hit by a brick in the head, two hit with bottles, and two others who were hit by various other objects. With the violence toward officers — and with crimes in recent weeks including a stabbing, near riot and multiple sexual assaults — Hoover said local law enforcement is being faced with an especially “rough” and unpredictable environment.

“We had a plan in place to handle the situation … but we certainly didn’t expect that to happen,” Hoover said.

As the situation made its way onto local televised news, UCSB Associate Dean of Students, Student Life and Activities Katya Armistead said she could see the fear in student residents.

“I was devastated, just devastated, watching the coverage,” Armistead said. “I started looking at social media, Facebook, and started seeing a lot of students that I knew reacting and pretty upset. They were tear gassed or they were scared to leave their homes.”

An Isla Vista resident--who has his face covered due to the deployment of tear gas--shows the size of the rubber bullets used by police to neutralize the rioters. Robert Johnson/Daily Nexus

An Isla Vista resident–who has his face covered due to the deployment of tear gas–shows the size of the rubber bullets used by police to neutralize the rioters. Robert Johnson/Daily Nexus

In the aftermath of the riots, some students and even UCSB administrators are saying the friction between partygoers and law enforcement allowed the night’s events to escalate to such destructive levels. Armistead agreed with Hoover that the recent spike in violent crime has put local police officers on the “defense.”

“I think they were already on the defense — they being the police,” Armistead said. “So I think last night, as soon as that officer was struck, the police were like, ‘Oh, we’re not going to take this. We know what happened last time’… They were trying to protect themselves.”

However, there has also been a general outcry from students regarding local police activity, particularly the installment of security cameras along Del Playa and miscommunication surrounding policies for Deltopia, such as a festival ordinance for loud music. Armistead said many students were confused about the ordinance, which law enforcement released no official notification for.

“There was definitely a misunderstanding,” Armistead said. “We need to do a way better job of communicating exactly what we’re following. If students asked me yesterday exactly what [the ordinance] was, I wouldn’t have been able to say, and that’s not a good thing.”

UCSB Associate Dean of Students Don Lubach said much of the concerns surrounding the newly-placed security cameras seem to come from the lack of transparency and open communication in installing them.

“They are not evil in and of themselves,” Lubach said. “I think we heard, this afternoon, that people were worried about how fast they went up, and it felt like there was not enough consultation.”

Although neither the Sheriff’s Office nor members of the UCSB administration had information regarding the number of non-local party-goers in I.V., Hoover said much of the disturbance likely resulted from visitors.

“You can’t say that the locals are innocent in all of this, but we do find that Isla Vista attracts people from out of town to come in,” Hoover said. “They’re not invested in our community, and they’re attracted by the atmosphere.”

Third-year political science and economics major Andrew Soriano, president of UCSB’s Residence Hall Association, said the fact that students invite friends and publicize the event contributes to the out-of-towner problem.

“I would honestly say that this is a culmination of a lot of issues. Although out-of-towners are the problem, part of the problem is ingrained in how certain individuals have invited their friends and that our school image in general attracts the wrong crowd,” Soriano said. “Honesty I kinda felt a little bit blindsided … so in retrospect we should have prepared for the worst.”

Hoover said she was disheartened by the party-goers’ response to police, saying police were merely attempting to keep the peace.

“Their entire goal is to protect the citizens, and to have individuals who are throwing things at them when they’re trying to protect them is just ridiculous and hard to understand, and it’s hurtful,” Hoover said. “It really is hurtful. It makes me angry.”

Homes and vehicles, like this one here, were damaged during the riots at night. Robert Johnson/Daily Nexus

Homes and vehicles, like this one here, were damaged during the riots at night. Robert Johnson/Daily Nexus

In response to Saturday’s violence, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young invited student leaders and community members to speak with him in an open forum yesterday at Coffee Collaborative. He said although he approves of light-hearted partying, the events of Deltopia went too far.

“I don’t care if students who are of age have a drink, I don’t care if people engage in relationships as long as everyone is consenting — [that’s] none of my business. But what I do care about is abuse of people and the environment in the name of fun.”

Hoover said she expects members of local law enforcement and the general Isla Vista community to come together in light of Saturday’s incidents.

“Everyone’s going to come together, and we’re going to have to figure out where to go from here,” Hoover said. “We can’t allow our law enforcement, our citizens, to get hurt or to die.”

The day after the Deltopia riots, UCSB Vice Chancellor Donald Young held an open forum at the Coffee Collaborative and invited students and community members to speak with him. Benjamin Pu/Daily Nexus

The day after the Deltopia riots, UCSB Vice Chancellor Donald Young held an open forum at the Coffee Collaborative and invited students and community members to speak with him. Benjamin Pu/Daily Nexus


Carissa Quiambao, Patrick Kulp, and Jimmy Chang contributed to this report.

Video by Daniel Slovinsky

A version of this story appeared on the Monday, April 7, 2014 edition of the Daily Nexus.

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22 Responses to Deltopia 2014: What Happened?

  1. Rhonda

    April 13, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    To be expected when our children are raised with a continual stream of movies filled with wacko behavior and brainless behavior and filthy mouths,… generation(s) that have no room for a Creator and the care of His world,..therefore no respect for other people or the grounds they tread on.

  2. tac

    April 8, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    No, student activism against privacy encroachments did not cause the riot. However, a long term underlying discontent with the local law enforcement PLUS new big brother type sound and video monitoring could not have helped the mood.

  3. Rochelle Upton

    April 8, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Let’s get real. This combination of alcohol,uninvited persons, no music, and generally nothing to do but get into trouble, is not the kind of party anyone wants to go to. Is student activism against conceived privacy encroachments by local law enforcement the reason so much got trashed? Come on, stupid idea got stupid results. Next year if there is a Deltopia, plan it like a celebration not a drunken bunch of nitwits getting together.

  4. tac

    April 8, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Did that “unknown” student actually ATTACK the officer with his backpack? I have been hearing that he was jumping up and down drunk on a car, and when he leaped down, the backpack slammed into the officer resulting in injury. True or false?

    I also heard that the stabbings that initiated the heavy police response were due to gang members from Lompoc. True or False?

    The student’s response afterwards, when they threw bottles and rocks was beyond the pale. With all the cameras around, it will be interesting to see who actually started the bottle and rock throwing.

    Speaking of those cameras, how were they permitted to be placed all over Isla Vista with no review of any kind, and in people’s yards? How many communities do you think would allow video cameras with sound to be installed in large numbers around their neighborhoods? Do you think THIS might have caused some upset with the residents?

    Don’t get me wrong. The kids did some majorly stupid things here. At the same time, I do not think that the police can be held blameless. Why were they shooting students with rubber bullets, who were peacefully watching from balconies? Why did they continue to throw teargas down streets, when the riot had stopped, and confused kids were trying to get back to their homes?

    I know of a person who was pulled over Sunday morning for not having their seatbelt on while driving from their home in Isla Vista. The police car raced up to him and blocked his car aggressively, while another police car blocked from the back. The young man complained, sure, which is not illegal. The officer arrested him, throwing his arms behind his back, knocking him to the ground, and kneeing him in the back, all the time screaming at him over and over “this is what you get for being a jerk!” He received a seatbelt violation. I’ve heard many other stories of police over-reaction in Isla Vista, and I have to wonder if this may have contributed to the crowd’s reaction Saturday night?

    • Lexi

      April 9, 2014 at 2:33 pm

      Actually the newest reports state that the kid who first attacked the officer with the backpack full of bottles was 17 or 18 years old and from Los Angeles, not a student. This supports what a lot of Isla Vista residents are claiming – that the majority of the troublemakers are not students, but out of towners.

      Having lived in Isla Vista for 3 years (this is my first year away) and having many friends who still live there whom I’ve spoken to about the incident, I feel confident in saying that many of the people in the crowd that rioted were NOT in fact UCSB students. Obviously there are exceptions, but the majority of the rioters were visitors. Isla Vista residents get rowdy, but most of them would never destroy property in the very town they live in. Almost everyone who goes to UCSB has friends who live on DP who have cars parked on that street etc.

      Having lived there, I’m also aware of how many uninvited out of towners there are. It’s really shocking – I can’t even count the number of people I met on various weekends (many more on events like Halloween) who would openly admit to knowing no one in town, having nowhere to sleep but their cars and having come up for the free parties they heard about over social media or through word of mouth. Note that these are most often the people I see being arrested later for open containers, fighting, puking in public etc. at the end of the night.

      That being said, the students in Isla Vista need to take more responsibility on how they portray their town online and in social media. It’s become advertised as some sort of Beerfest or Tortuga ala Pirates of the Caribbean type of place and that’s attracting the kind of people on a regular basis who disrespect the town and its residents. It’s a STUDENT neighborhood and if the students there don’t take ownership of it and make it clear that only those who can respect can come play, then the friendly college town myself and many other alumni love will become a thing of the past.

  5. henry sarria

    April 8, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Take it from a long time & current IV rsident (I live on Segovia): The place has gone to shit & douchetopia is an clear indicator.
    Here’s the good part: You can kiss douchetopia BUH BYE! It is done, cooked, gone.
    Oh, by the way, expect heavy LEO enforcement for Halloween as well, they’re gonna come down like a ton of bricks.
    well, you get what you work for, stop whining about your right to party @ somebody else’s expense & face the simple facts:
    1) You are NOT above the law (even though you think you are).
    2) Bad behavior WILL be punished.
    3) You douchenozzles that invited the out of towners are responsible for this mess.
    There’s more, but I’mm too pissed off to write.

  6. ucsb alum

    April 8, 2014 at 8:26 am

    These letters in the Nexus are so sad. The open letter on the right to party was ridiculous. Now, this defensive article about why Deltopia happened. Grow up! “No one talked to us about putting in lighting?” Is that a joke? Entitled enough?

  7. Sallina

    April 8, 2014 at 1:39 am

    Im so annoyed with the headlines saying “UCSB party turns into a riot,” when the statement is false. A party is a group of people dancing to MUSIC. What people are failing to realize is that this year the Music was banned from Deltopia. Out of all the illegal things that could have been banned or managed they take away the music? Without it people are only left to get drunk, get high, and swap saliva. Therefore i think this whole riot could have been avoided because honestly its the music that brings the positive vibes.

    • Segev

      April 13, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      This is totally true. High five.

    • Rhonda

      April 13, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      Nope. The idea that having had the “music” would have brought peace,..the stuff polluting the air probably would have been mostly hideous stuff that lends to more debauchery and reprobate minds.

    • adam stone

      July 17, 2014 at 7:22 am

      ‘Par-ty: a person or persons engaged in an activity, such as a climbing party.’ -websters
      Music is implied but not required in a modern definition of the word.
      A music event with security may or may not prevent clashes with police. But that’s not really what Deltopia is about, is it?
      It evolved as a free-form street and beach party, not a concert.

  8. Krusty Shakelford

    April 7, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    Same thing recently happened in Huntington Beach. Just takes a few drunks with anger issues to ruin it for the rest.

  9. UCSBAlumni

    April 7, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    I graduated in 08. Used to live in IV. It’s sad to read stories like this. As much as I enjoyed partying and drinking, UCSB is one of the finest and most prestigious schools in the country. The fact that we’re having some idiots destroy the reputation of such a fine establishment by childish behavior is saddening. I wasn’t there to see what happened, but I am well aware of the idiots out on DP getting hammered and trashed beyond control. It’s pathetic and hope that students will learn to behave a little bit more responsibly. I loved my time at UCSB, in IV, partying and drinking, yes, but do so while you’re in control.

    • Ed "Special Ed" Jones

      April 7, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      Someday these dimwits will be in an interviewing room with some guy named Chin or Lee or Pradeep whose parents lived in a little shack with no running water, no internet, no pay-per-view TV. Those Chinese and Indian guys will have taken them seriously because they knew no way in hell were their parents going to let them go back home if they failed. Their interviewers will wonder why they should hire a bunch of spoiled American brats when they could get one of their own who would work his (or her) ass off for half the money back home. The day of reckoning is coming for these ass-clowns, and it ain’t going to be pretty.

      • Jen

        April 7, 2014 at 4:40 pm

        Some students are not spoiled. You should expand your narrow view and seek the truth.

  10. doc

    April 7, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    “We’re confused about the policies and the cameras went up so fast and nobody consulted or explained any of this…”

    Are the residents and taxpayers REALLY paying for these child-idiots? Their parents must be proud…

  11. Dan

    April 7, 2014 at 11:10 am

    After reading numerous articles on various news outlets, seeing the responses on social media, and accounts from people that still live in Santa Barbara it’s disgusting to me that things got so out of hand for what was once a fun event. I would never think it was acceptable to destroy cars, demolish public property, assault anyone, or act like a complete wild animal. I have mixed feelings about who there is to blame for things escalating, but I do know that I hope the people of Isla Vista can come together and learn from this. Do you really want to live/study/work in a place that is so devoid of morality and general principles of how you need to treat others? You are paying tens of thousands of dollars to live there so why not make it the best place that it can be and be proud of where you live.

    • Chris

      April 7, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      Got a hint on how to get to the place you speak of: People need to quit begging bros from everywhere on Facebook to come into IV and get hammered, with nothing to do but trash and dash. We can be pretty certain that the people who were trapped in their houses and apartments by rioters don’t want to put up with this madness any more than cops or the University does. Students aren’t roaming around with stop signs smashing their own cars.

      • Dan

        April 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm

        People who invite these bros and out of towners are the ones living there. Take responsibility for those that you bring there and set an example that it will not be acceptable behavior to pull that type of stuff. Don’t let these people into your parties and your homes. Take responsibility.

        • Jen

          April 7, 2014 at 4:42 pm

          Dan and Chris, this party was broadcasted on local news and some national articles before the party. It’s not just us who are inviting “outsiders.” UCSB/SBCC students invited friends. These drug lords and gangs come up to Isla Vista to take advantage of the opportunities to sell drugs, commit crime, etc.

  12. Speedzzter

    April 7, 2014 at 7:09 am

    This is what “America” has become? A mob of drunken buffoons burning mattresses and vandalizing the property of others?

    UCSB must be so proud.

    The so-called “Morality of Consent” continues slouching down to the immorality of debauchery . . . That’s inevitable when alcohol and mass ignorance combine with abdication of moral leadership.

    • Emma

      April 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm

      Yes UCSB should be proud. We are a top notch university with some of the best teachers in the country. One party that went out of control, MOSTLY due to out of towners does not portray anything about us. Sure some people invited friends over, but every single person I asked were friends of SBCC students. I’m not saying UCSB students are not at fault. I’m just saying take a step back and realize this was an attack on OUR city. We don’t like it any more than you, and it is embarrassing to us that people like judge our wonderful, majestic and high ranking school as ” a mob of drunken buffoons”. You aren’t here to deal with the aftermath, you aren’t out on the streets cleaning up like the rest of us. We are devastated by what happened so if you are going to sit back and judge OUR school and OUR town, keep it to yourself.