Protesting the war in Iraq, between 700 and 1,000 UCSB students, faculty, staff and community members marched through campus and onto Highway 217 yesterday, ending their demonstration by demanding the release of fellow activists from jail.
Demonstrators – who were urged by organizers to boycott the university by skipping class and work – gathered at Pardall Tunnel at 1 p.m. and blocked bicycle traffic while playing music, chanting and listening to anti-war speakers. The assembly then marched through campus as far as Highway 217, where they blocked traffic into and out of campus for an hour and a half.
“We’ve disrupted this little bubble of life known as Isla Vista for one day,” UCSB graduate student and protest organizer Darwin Bondgraham said. “Even students who are passing by the rally or watching the march from the sidelines are affected by it and we’ve given everyone something to think about.”
Following the arrest of two protesters on the highway, the crowd congregated at Cheadle Hall, asking for the administration’s help in getting a former student and a professor out of jail.
The two activists who crossed police lines on Highway 217 were arrested by the CHP around 3 p.m. and were taken to the Santa Barbara County Jail. Chancellor Henry T. Yang visited the jail yesterday evening to petition for the release of former UCSB student and Isla Vista resident Jesse Carrieri, as well as women’s studies professor Mireille Miller-Young, Carrieri said. Police released the pair after 8 p.m.
Throughout the several hour-long rally, protesters condemned President George W. Bush’s plan to deploy 20,000 additional troops to stabilize Iraq. In addition, many students decried university management of the Lawrence Livermore, Berkeley National and Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratories, which receive government funding in part to develop military technology.
The anti-war gathering drew local law enforcement, which estimated the crowd at 700 to 800 people, said UC Police Dept. Community Relations Officer Matt Bowman. Various protesters, however, put the number at more than 1,000 attendees.
“Obviously, our goal for an assembly such as this is public safety,” Bowman said. “[Pardall Tunnel] is a busy intersection and has many potential safety problems. … However, the people have been very cooperative.”
Meanwhile, College Republicans counter-demonstrated by throwing an “All-American Barbeque” on a Pardall Road balcony near the initial protest assembly and blasted country music after hanging a banner that read, “Save an American, Draft a Hippie.”
The rally attracted students of various political ideologies, some of who just came to watch the spectacle rather than actively participate. James Blau, a third-year pharmacology major, said he did not understand how boycotting university business would affect the national government.
“An Iraq war protest is fine with me,” Blau said. “However, I don’t see the point of a university-directed strike. … I feel that this may be a misdirected effort.”
An hour after the demonstration began, the assembly headed down the Pardall corridor toward Storke Tower. They then marched through the Arbor and turned toward the Engineering Building, finally reaching Highway 217’s roundabout in an effort to shut down university traffic. Caltrans diverted university-bound traffic back toward Hollister Avenue and the 101 Freeway.
The rally climaxed at the Sandspit Road exit, where a barricade of CHP police cruisers and officers outfitted in riot gear commanded protesters via megaphone to sit on the pavement. In a tense scene marked by competition between deafening sirens and chanting protesters, assembly leaders urged reluctant participants to comply with police requests and to keep the demonstration peaceful.
First-year financial mathematics and statistics major Roman Stahl said officers commanded him to sit on the pavement during the standoff.
“We were in front of the police, shoulder-to-shoulder, when an officer told us over the megaphone to sit down,” Stahl said. “It was crazy; we were face-to-face with officers in riot gear. … They had such unified expressions. I bet they practice those faces every night in the mirror.”
CHP officers arrested Carrieri and Miller-Young for “crossing law-enforcement lines and failing to disperse when ordered to do so,” according to a CHP press release.
“I went to talk to an officer,” Carrieri said. “He refused to talk to me and told me to sit down. This continued and they eventually arrested me. I see no real reason why I was taken downtown.”
Carrieri said Yang’s visit to the jail was the reason he and Miller-Young avoided an overnight stay in jail.
“I think [Chancellor Yang’s] presence got me released as soon as I did,” Carrieri said.
Following the arrests, the protestors looped back toward Cheadle Hall at about 3:45 p.m. Students banged on the building’s glass windows, shouting, “Ain’t no power like the power of the people, ’cause the power of the people won’t stop.”
UCPD, however, blocked the entrance to the building.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young attended the event. He remained a silent spectator until students rallied around Cheadle Hall and urged him to speak. Young addressed the demonstrators about his views on free speech and providing a safe environment for students of all perspectives.
“I’m a big advocate of providing a free society here on campus,” Young said. “However, I also have to fulfill my role as vice chancellor and encourage all sides to speak peacefully.”