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Opinion >> The Big Picture
Ever since I can remember, I have hated the use of clichés. Usually employed as a lazy cop-out, literary bromides pollute the prose of many writers, and I would like to imagine myself as being above their usage. However, in this instance I feel justified in employing one of the most old and tired platitudes: I told you so.
Now, by this point, we have all heard the most prominent excuses for the riot incident this past weekend. Students are blaming out-of-towners, and many outside our community are pointing a finger at our supposedly rebellious student body. Interestingly, I have not heard much commentary as to another potential cause of the incident: the excessive and overt presence of law enforcement personnel within Isla Vista.
Recently, much has been said regarding the emergence of stricter security methods both on campus and in the adjacent neighborhood. The recent proliferation of a set of conspicuous security camera installations has caused many to question their necessity. Media outlets — this newspaper included —have postulated a connection between the recent case of sexual assault, the crackdown on Deltopia and the emergence of the security camera towers. Originally only half a dozen in number, there are now more than fifteen in place both in Isla Vista and on university property. At five cameras and two floodlights per structure, this places the new security camera count at roughly seventy-five and the floodlight number at thirty.
With this information at hand — and with various campus officials claiming that these structures are in place for the public good — one might wonder why any criminal incident occurred at Deltopia on Saturday.
As I am writing this, it is Sunday afternoon. I intentionally waited to write this article until today because I had a hunch that something of this nature—an act of civilian resistance—would occur at Deltopia. It almost seemed as if it would be inevitable. As this is what did indeed take place, I am going to break with UCSB’S administrative consensus and state that it was the heavy-handed law enforcement presence that influenced and caused the riot to occur.
How is it that we as a community have decided that more of what is not working is what should be employed to stop violent events in our neighborhood? Obviously, an increased police presence and the placement of dozens of security cameras did nothing to prevent mob action at Deltopia — why should we expect next year to be any different?
The explicit presence of law enforcement personnel from multiple agencies set the stage for what happened. Citizens in our community have simply grown tired of the predatory police force which festers in our town like a parasite, making a living wage by arresting hapless and drunk underage students and others participating in victimless crimes. The agencies that putatively are in existence to protect us are causing the very problems that they claim to solve.
If this is a mistruth, then why was it so amusing to many of us when an anonymous student strapped a North Korean flag to one of the aforementioned security camera towers earlier this week? I have heard many justify the placement of these structures by stating that if they prevent crime and unrest then they are good for our community. Has this proved to be the case?
Despite the pleas of our community members, this is not a problem that will solve itself. It is not an illness which may be rectified by a simple request to the student body and others inhabiting Isla Vista. Is the solution merely more riot shields and tear gas? How could it be? Local violence has become a circular problem, and you are not less culpable because you engage in this action while hiding behind a badge.
Why is it that we have Deltopia anyways? Is it not because of the closure of the beaches by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department and the UCPD, thus precluding the celebration of Floatopia? How many years will it be before someone points out, in a court of law, that the restriction of access to a public waterway is in fact an illegal action? I have heard much rhetoric by our campus administration and local law enforcement about the woman who passed away during the date of last year’s Deltopia — of course, what they always omit is that she was nowhere near Del Playa Drive, and in fact died while participating in the allegedly illegal act of trespassing on the beach. This individual’s tragic passing has been transformed into a justification for the draconian and clumsy enforcement of anti-social regulations by our law enforcement agencies. If the police department was unable to prevent this tragedy — which they are constantly citing as the raison d’être for the heavy law enforcement presence at this year’s Deltopia — why should they expect us to believe that a more aggressive stance by the police force is a viable and effective solution?
If we have a large police force, they are going to be put to use. An anonymous open letter — a missive published this past week by both the Santa Barbara News-Press and the Daily Nexus — accused both the UCSB administration and local law enforcement of being “Neo-Fascist” in nature. I agree, somewhat; I just see no reason for the prefix “Neo.” It’s the same old brand of radical and reactionary dicta that we have been suffering under for years. There is nothing new about it. The name and faces have changed but the problems have not. Law enforcement in Southern California — our precinct included — has shown itself to be reactionary, supranationalist and discriminatory time and again. The only difference between the police force of today and yesteryear is that now they have security cameras.
These recent incidents are not the fault of partygoers, local or not. Perusing through news articles last week, one would have thought that we live in some bizarre Footloose-esque town where music is banned and the police decide our moral standards. I do not condone this violence and no else should either — especially by those who are involved in an agency that is supposed to serve the populace that pays for its existence.
Jonathan Rogers would also like to propose a sanctioned screening of Footloose be shown to all IVFP officers.