Over 70 UC Santa Barbara students and Isla Vista community members attended a #FreeIV festival on Oct. 30, protesting Isla Vista’s increased police presence during Halloween weekend. 

The festival, hosted by a coalition of student and local organizations, held live music, speakers and community artists selling local wares. Attendees also had the opportunity to speak with representatives from the progressive organizations of the event. 

Originally set to be held at Sea Lookout Park beginning at 11 a.m., the event was relocated to a nearby park on the 67 block of Del Playa drive that same morning. Despite the last-minute switch, the festival still proved successful, according to Taylor Clark, third-year history and sociology major, Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) co-chair and #FreeIV organizer. 

“I think it’s a pretty clear demonstration that students have the capacity to run their own community,” Clark said. 

“The whole idea is to demonstrate to the county, to the university that students have the capacity to ‘police themselves’ but by police, we really just mean, ‘keep a safe space for people to celebrate the holiday.’” 

For the past eight years, I.V. has seen an increase in policing and regulation after Halloween weekend in 2013, which drew crowds of over 10,000 and saw 200 arrests and 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) was upstaffed with police from non-UCSB UCPD officers, UCSB residential halls and apartments were fenced in and the Santa Ynez and Sierra Madre Villages campus apartments had vehicle checkpoints. 

Halloween weekend saw zero Halloween-related arrests and 17 citations. 

For Noelle, a sophomore at San Marcos High School and member of the Cops Off Campus SB Youth Coalition who declined to give her last name for privacy reasons, the topic of over-policing is close to home. Noelle, alongside classmates and other advocates, successfully worked to remove the San Marcos School Resource Officer (SRO), an armed police officer responsible for crime prevention at the high school. 

After their school board unanimously voted to remove the position from campus, SRO’s are being removed from all three high schools in the district. 

“In my position, I want to try to uplift the voices of people who feel like they aren’t in a position where they feel safe enough to speak out [against the SRO]” Noelle said, noting that despite community backlash, the group “isn’t going anywhere.” 

“Our next focus is using the money that was previously used for the SRO and putting it toward mental health resources. Solve the root of problems, like, school shootings or drug use or mental health,” she continued. “That’s what we want to try to solve. Because having police on campus does not protect all students.” 

The event, which was organized by YDSA and Food Not Bombs, also had a number of other organizations — including Bonfire Collective, Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA), El Congreso, Students for Justice in Palestine, Eco Vista, Campus Democrats, Underground Scholars, The Feminist Collective and Cops Off Campus — table and speak to attendees. 

For Manju Cheenath, a fourth-year biology major and co-chair of SASA, the event’s message aligned with her organization’s message. 

“SASA has been doing a lot of work with the Clery Act and the timely warnings on campus,” Cheenath said. “A lot of that work involves working with the police and kind of noticing how the police aren’t always working how the students want them to work.” 

“The message of this event is so good because we see how it is with police on campus and in I.V., and SASA is working with a similar mission right now.” 

Cristina Guerrero, a fourth-year English major and co-chair of The Feminist Collective, said that #FreeIV’s goal of increasing support for removing the police presence in I.V. during Halloweekend aligned with her organization’s values of intersectionality. 

“We are anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist. We support abolition on all fronts, that’s the military, the prison industrial complex and the police,” she said. “We are huge advocates for getting cops off of not only campus but out of marginalized communities [and] low income communities because police heavily target those communities.” 

Guerrero added that she enjoyed the solidarity she felt between the organizations attending the event. 

“We’ve gotten a good amount of people interested in our work. And it’s really nice to see that not only orgs we’re [previously] collaborated with, others as well, kind of come together in support of this,” she said. 

For Clark, the event’s success showed that students and community members had the capacity to enjoy Halloween and keep one another safe without excess policing. 

“I think we’ve accomplished our goal of showing that it really isn’t necessary to have the hyper-militarized police presence as present in Isla Vista during Halloween,” he said. 

“As a community, we have the capacity to put on safe events … All of our resources right now, through tax dollars through tuition, that are being funneled into the cops, really are more of an anathema to the type of safe environment that we’re trying to create.”

A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the Nov. 4, 2021 print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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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.