With heavy police presence and two aircrafts hovering above UCSB, as many as five hundred anti-war protesters marched across campus yesterday, resulting in the arrest of three participants.
The marchers, who were protesting the war in Iraq as well as the University of California’s involvement in military research, gathered around Pardall Tunnel at noon and then descended upon Corwin Pavilion to disrupt the 2008 Army-Industry Collaboration Conference. The two-day conference serves as a gathering between defense industry and army officials and is hosted by UCSB’s Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies.
Although the march was initially peaceful, the demonstration quickly intensified when protesters responded to the arrest of two male participants. After police officers pulled the two men from the crowd and placed them under arrest, several demonstrators rushed to obstruct the path of three police cars. Forming a human barrier, they proceeded to link arms and assume a seated position, demanding the release of the persons in custody.
According to Matt Bowman, the UC Police Dept. Community Relations and Training Officer, the two individuals – who were unaffiliated with UCSB – were issued citations for resisting or delaying a police officer and ordered off campus for disturbing university business.
Additionally, during the protest, some members of the crowd proceeded to flip over lunch tables, grab food and pound on the conference doors, shouting, “UC military free” and “Hey, hey, ho ho, ICB has got to go.”
Sitting in the middle of the road while facing off against a police cruiser, Sam Sherman, a second-year environmental studies major, said he was confident the group could confront authority.
“The police look pretty confused and speechless,” Sherman said. “I don’t think they quite know what to do.”
Officers responded rapidly, shielding the cruiser from the demonstrators. Bowman said his department successfully controlled the crowd without resorting to force.
“I was manhandled myself, many times, but we refrained from using force,” Bowman said. “There was no use of batons, tazers or pepper spray … We feel the officers did a good job interacting with the public despite heightened emotions, and [the police] acted professionally throughout the event.”
However, Kyle Knoebel, a second-year environmental studies major, alleged he was jostled by a police officer during the stand off.
“As I was sitting down in front of the car, the officer grabbed my neck and threw me to the ground,” Knoebel said. “Then he kicked me when I was on the floor.”
Yesterday’s student-organized event also targeted UC involvement with weapons research – chiefly its co-management of the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories, which receive government funding in part to develop military technology, as well as engaging in other studies.
Erin Rosenthal, a third-year biopsychology major, said she participated in yesterday’s protest in order to help strengthen peaceful sentiment at UCSB, a movement that she said could lead to the end of the war in Iraq.
“We have to build a community voice to speak out against the war,” Rosenthal said. “It starts small as a protest and gradually, it will get bigger and bigger until we can do things such as stop a war, like we saw with Vietnam.”
Although the majority of participants in yesterday’s spectacle were opposed to the war in Iraq, the demonstration was not without its dissenters. Dan Duran, a fourth-year business economics major, led a counter-protest.
Waving an American flag, Duran offered an opposing standpoint to the issues highlighted during the protest.
“The main reason that I am out here to protest this rally today is because I feel [the protesters] tried really hard to group every special interest group together,” Duran said. “War made us a nation, ended Nazism and slavery, and I just don’t believe in what people here today are saying.”
Counter-protester Zac Gates, an undeclared first-year student, said two female demonstrators approached and allegedly assaulted him and a friend.
“We were having a discussion with two girls participating in the protest when they suddenly started shouting at us,” Gates said. “They took my signs and ripped them up and told us to get out of here … We were simply trying to engage them in a dialogue, and they wouldn’t have it.”
The day’s third arrest occurred after a female protester gained entry to the AICC conference and began tearing down posters. The woman was spotted attempting to flee the premises when UCPD intervened, issuing a citation for theft and resisting or delaying a police officer.
In spite of the reports of discord, the event saw no reports of serious injury. At the height of the protest, Bowman said the UCPD, Community Service Organization, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept., Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Gang Unit Squad and California Highway Patrol worked in conjunction to regulate the event.
For more photos of the event, click here.