A coalition of UC Santa Barbara and Isla Vista student groups and community organizations are hosting an Oct. 30 festival — which will include food, music and tabling — to protest the increased police presence in I.V. during Halloween weekend. 

 The #FreeIV festival will protest the increase in policing and regulation I.V. sees on Halloween weekend. Here, a trio of UCPD officers patrol the streets of I.V. during Halloween weekend in 2016. Daily Nexus File Photo

Over the course of Halloween weekend, the UCSB and I.V. communities see an increase in policing and regulation as a result of previous Halloween weekends, which drew crowds greater than 10 thousand. Crime statistics and attendance numbers for the annual weekend have declined drastically since 2013, which saw over 200 arrests and nearly 250 citations. 

This year, Isla Vista Foot Patrol (IVFP) Lieutenant John Maxwell said that the IVFP decided to increase staffing for Halloween weekend but not on the scale of previous years. The UCSB UC Police Department (UCPD) will be upstaffing with police from non-UCSB UCPD officers coming for Halloween weekend, UCSB residential halls and apartments will have fencing and the Santa Ynez and Sierra Madre campus apartments will have vehicle checkpoints. 

In addition, the Santa Barbara County Festival Noise Ordinance, which prohibits any outdoor event with loud music where people are invited free of charge, will be in effect Oct. 26 to Nov. 4 from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. the following morning. 

The event protesting these police and regulation increases — named #FreeIV — will be held at Sea Lookout Park beginning at 11 a.m. and will give students and community members the opportunity to enjoy live music and food as well as learn about progressive community organizations. 

“Essentially, the idea is to give a safe place to celebrate [Halloween] in Isla Visa during that weekend,” said Taylor Clark, co-chair of UCSB’s Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA).

“Although there are some events on campus … what we thought was missing was really a student-organized option for people to enjoy the holiday weekend,” he continued. “We want to give them a safe place to celebrate the holiday, essentially outside of the purview of the university.” 

According to Gina, a Food Not Bombs organizer who declined to state her full name for privacy concerns, the participating groups have a wide variety of criticisms about increased policing and the festival ordinance. 

“Instead of having events that are safe, people end up going to private house parties [and] getting really drunk or not doing anything at all, which doesn’t allow us the opportunity to build community,” she said of the effect of the 6 p.m. festival ordinance.

“What we want is events that are safe for the community and we want the money that’s used on policing to be used instead on those events,” she continued. 

In addition, Gina said that the added cost of extra policing could be better spent serving students’ basic needs. 

“Obviously I.V. has a basic needs shortage. We are in a food desert, there is not enough housing for the students or for the people that live here,” she said. “And we think that the resources that are spent on policing should be used for those things instead.”

Groups attending the event, which was organized by YDSA and Food Not Bombs, include the Bonfire Collective, Students Against Sexual Assault, El Congreso, Students for Justice in Palestine, Eco Vista, Campus Democrats, Underground Scholars and Cops Off Campus, according to Gina. 

The organizations have been meeting for approximately a month prior to plan the event, she said, and are hoping to create solidarity with one another’s movements.

“[This is] the first time in a long time that so many groups have come together under one cause, which is anti-policing,” Gina said. 

“This is just the starting point … we want this to be the launchpad for our organizations working more closely together in the future. We want there to be more solidarity and collaboration between our groups, so that we can actually change Isla Vista for the better long term,” she continued.

Clark, who played a large role in organizing the upcoming event, reiterated that the coalition of participating groups was based on community-building. 

“I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to work out some shared priorities after the following campaign and continue to organize around other issues that are infinitely important to the community in the future,” he said. 

Both Gina and Clark emphasized that excessive policing in I.V. during Halloween weekend was more detrimental to the community than funding and promoting grassroots, community-organized and -oriented events like #FreeIV.

“A 2019 study done by the [Isla Vista] Community Services District shows that the vast majority of arrests and citations in Isla Vista are done for nonviolent offenses. We’re talking about drinking in public, public intoxication, underage drinking, things that we can solve internally without violent police forces, putting people in jail overnight or putting people in the drunk tanks,” Gina said. 

“If instead, I wanted to have events that could actually build community and not just be about drinking and blacking out, having a deeper community — we can do that from the ground up. We don’t need the government or the county or the police department to come in and enforce these perfectly overprotective rules,” she continued.

Clark noted that while the groups understood the necessity of checkpoints outside of I.V. to prohibit out-of-town visitors during Halloween weekend, the community of I.V. does not benefit from continual heavy police presence. 

“The focus of the campaign is showing that people now have rights to self-determination,” Clark said. “We never ask the cops to be here, and we don’t really feel safe with them here, and they aren’t really solving what the problem [was] anyway.” 

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Holly Rusch
Holly Rusch (she/her) is the University News Editor for the 2020-21 school year. She can be reached at news@dailynexus.com or hollyrusch@dailynexus.com.