After covering the campus with signs reading “No more blood for oil” and “Last year… We took the 217. This year…” activists will attempt to top last year’s massive anti-war protest today.

Demonstrators will rally at noon at Pardall Tunnel to protest the continued United States military presence in Iraq. The rally follows in the footsteps of last year’s anti-war march, which drew between 700 and 1,000 UCSB students, faculty, staff and community members onto Highway 217, closing it down to traffic until scores of police officers called to the scene managed to restore order.

According to organizers, this year’s rally, while focusing on the war in Iraq, will also encompass other issues of interest to those in attendance, such as women’s rights, climate change and the acts of genocide occurring in Darfur.

The protest coincides with the first day of the 2008 Army-Industry Collaboration Conference, a two-day gathering hosted by UCSB’s Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies between defense industry and army officials, and calls for UCSB students, faculty and staff to skip class and work in opposition to the war in Iraq.

Organizer JT Yu, a recent UCSB graduate, said he hopes today’s protest educates UCSB students about issues affecting them directly, such as UC involvement with the Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley National and Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratories, which receive government funding in part to develop military technology.

“[Today’s] protest is about reminding students that the power rests in the people,” Yu said. “That is what this country was founded on.”

Yu said the gathering at Pardall Tunnel will begin with an open forum, allowing protesters to speak out against the war.

Following the noon assembly, the activists hope to march onto campus for further actions.

Although last year’s anti-war protest saw unified support from numerous college campuses around the country, today’s demonstration is directly focused on UCSB and its involvement in the war in Iraq.

Fliers sponsored by were distributed across campus for a number of weeks urging students to participate in today’s protest.

Danny Jolles, a second-year sociology major, said his involvement in this year’s peace demonstration was due to his strong belief in peaceful protesting.

“Last year’s protest was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before,” Jolles said. “I think everyone should be out there and make their voice heard.”