Responses to the riots on Saturday have played out on social media in a hive mind collective consciousness of disbelief and confusion, of blame and shame. Of course, it’s the out-of-towners who are at fault right? Or maybe the SBCC students who invited them? Perhaps it’s Deltopia in general which, like Halloween, has spun way outside of our community’s control?
I, like many of my UCSB peers, journeyed out onto the streets on Saturday, drinking early and well into the afternoon, napping to rally for the evening ahead. Around 3 p.m. I took a seemingly boring and drunkenly angled photo of a Sheriff Rescue Lenco BearCat armored vehicle parked next to the Isla Vista Foot Patrol station. I didn’t think much of it until I saw that same armored vehicle barricading the corner of Del Playa Drive and Camino del Sur at 9:45 p.m., only a few houses down from where I live.
And we all know what happened next — or do we? Everyone seems to have an opinion about the riots yet most weren’t even there. I sat on my balcony facing the 66 block of DP from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. (Adderall is a strange drug) and people-watched. From my perspective, those walking up and down the street didn’t seem that out of control; I’ve seen the same sketchy fuckfaces our community loathes on normal weekend nights acting way more disrespectful. I didn’t see a single fight during Deltopia. I don’t doubt there were a few, but as someone who goes out three or more nights a week I’m fairly used to drunken aggressive idiots getting into it. So it seemed pretty unusual to walk from party to party during the day and early evening and not come across any — during Deltopia, no less.
The point being that, leading up to the riot, the crowd on DP was not some mob causing problems. The daytime tens-of-thousands had thinned out, and the amount was pretty normal sized for a Saturday night. Why were there officers dressed in riot gear and armored vehicles in I.V. all day? What did the police think would happen when they decided to charge down DP at 10 p.m., clashing with people who had been drinking all day?
If you search “Deltopia 2014” on YouTube, my three-minute video documenting the riot is one of the first to pop up. And you know what it shows? The riot started AFTER the cops lined up with shields and an armored vehicle. It shows a select few individuals (read: fucking dipshits) throwing bottles, yelling “Fuck the police” and inciting more to join. And above all it shows that with tear gas and fear, the cops chose to abruptly stop Deltopia exactly when they wanted to do so. By blockading DP right where the 66 and 67 blocks meet, police ensured that anyone and everyone walking in that direction would have run into it. It was only a matter of time before some sketchy fools would react.
In all likelihood, the police and County of Santa Barbara had planned to break up Deltopia at the first sign of trouble. The armored vehicle and riot police were positioned in I.V. all day; it’s not like a riot broke out and THEN the cops called in for backup from SWATT. They planned to use a show of force to clear Del Playa at a signal of enough-is-enough (we now know it was when a cop was struck in the head at the beginning of the 67 block of DP with a bottle-filled backpack.)
A showdown occurred Saturday between police trying to stop the festivities and young adults not willing to end their night early. But this wasn’t some chaotic riot that burst open on its own. We allowed out-of-towners into our city — shit, some of you might’ve invited them — and the county and police restricted parties by twisting another ordinance to fit their agenda; they then chose to end the night on their terms by any means necessary. By using violence themselves they made retaliating violence essentially inevitable, especially considering the amount of non-students who poured in for the weekend. It’s true there was a riot on Saturday, but I think it’s incredibly important to understand who started it.
This cops vs. students battle royale bullshit narrative that the media has spun to condescend our community is utter fucking nonsense. I know a few people who are conspiratards, looking for conflicting information when there isn’t any, and hoping to uncover cracks in the story we’re told. I don’t consider myself one of them, but I can’t sit back and watch an unfair portrayal of what happened become the only account of Saturday’s events. Riot police and armored vehicles were positioned in I.V. BEFORE any “rioting” occurred. Isn’t it possible that there was a plan to break up the party at a particular time? Do you really think the county isn’t thrilled at what the response was, that they now have the force of the national media decrying a party scene they themselves have tried to eliminate so far with no avail? I hate to sound so jaded … but what happened Saturday isn’t so black and white.
Sean Carroll is a fourth-year political science major.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 10, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are primarily submitted by students.