UCSB Students Protest War, Block Highway 217

Ignoring the restrictions imposed by the mere
geometry of UCSB’s curbs and sidewalks, students marching today in
protest of the University of California’s involvement with military
efforts stepped across the newly installed roundabout at the
campus’s east entrance and walked down Highway 217 toward a cluster
of California Highway Patrol vehicles. The crowd—nearly one
thousand, according to event planners, though more conservative
estimates place the number closer to 500—had convened initially in
Isla Vista at Pardall Road, in front of a tunnel underpass through
which many UCSB students ride their bikes to get to class. Part of
the protest included a strike that discouraged students from
attending class in symbolism of a decisive break from “business as
usual.” Thus, the spot was integral for the protestors to hail
passers-by to drop their daily activities in favor of joining the
rally. However, the class walkout—which some students disobeyed,
even if they purported to support the protest—paled in comparison
to the literal walk down the principal highway leading into campus,
which stopped traffic.

As UC Police Department officers redirected cars trying to exit
campus, the mob of protestors stood before the CHP, who told
students not to step past their line of cars. The presence of the
officers prevented the protest from reaching the 101, which some in
the crowd alleged was their plan, but the barricade also resulted
in an hour-long confrontation between the two entities. Despite the
size of the student protest group and the riot gear CHP officers
sported, the worst of the interaction was limited to two arrests.
Former UCSB student Jesse Carrieri was taken into custody for
disobeying a peace officer, as was a women’s studies department
professor, Mireille Miller-Young.

Protestors sat on the pavement of Highway 217 and listened to
speakers address the group with words of encouragement, news of
other opportunities for political activism and the like. “I wasn’t
planning on coming today. I was on the bus,” said Dos Pueblos High
School student Adam Rothman, referencing a public transit vehicle
trying protests%20110.jpgthat had been completely stopped from
circling the roundabout when the march halted it. The crowd met
this identification with cheers. Other speakers spoke about the
protest being sadly uncharacteristic of the crop of young adults.
“Our generation is the one that will be remembered for iPods and
ignorance,” said a speaker. “We’re the generation that is willing
to get arrested for public intoxication on the weekend on [Del
Playa Drive] and not in a protest for civil disobedience.” Jeronimo
Saldana, a member of UCSB’s Associated Students Legislative Council
who took part in the protest, praised the crowd for coming as far
as they had. “We shut down the university as of now. We’re showing
our solidarity,” he said. “This is beautiful. Let’s keep this going

Walking Before Running and Gathering Before

Indeed, the spirit of the afternoon carried on for hours,
especially for the handful of organizers that arrived at the
initial Pardall Road location at 7 a.m. Organizers described the
event as one that continually grew in energy and number as the day
wore on. “It’s amazing to be here and look at all the people who
showed up,” said Andrew Culp, a research and advocacy associate at
the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. “And it’s had this ripple
effect,” he said, noting that UCSB’s protest seems to have inspired
similar ones at 27 other universities throughout the nation,
including Columbia, UCLA, UC Davis and Berkeley. “The fact that
this all happened so organically speaks to how powerful this is,”
said junior film studies and global studies major Ellen McClure of
the way UCSB’s recognition of the worldwide February 15, 2003
protests—in which an estimated six to ten million people protested
the United States’ planned invasion of Iraq—had apparently given
rise to additional activism beyond Santa Barbara.

One of the speakers at the Pardall Road stage of the protest
identified himself as “Yousef B.” and explained that college
students had a responsibility to protest the injustices suffered
overseas protests%20048.jpgbecause people in Iraq were not all that
different from Americans. “If you’ve never seen an Iraqi, then
right here—I am a person from Iraq and I look like you,” he said
after addressing the crowd with the traditional Muslim greeting of
peace. The speaker continued to say that unlike American students,
however, those studying at colleges in Iraq spend an approximate
amount of time working for their degrees but “have no hope,” as the
future of their country is so uncertain.

Darwin BondGraham, a second year sociology grad student at UCSB,
said the protest was important because, in his opinion, many
students need an extra nudge to become agents of political change.
“A lot of students are democrats in the way Dianne Feinstein is a
democrat and [voted for the war] or Hillary Clinton is and served
on the board of directors for Walmart… We’re trying to get people
radicalized.” BondGraham, who appeared to be a de facto leader for
the organizers, who consciously rejected electing any sort of
formal boss, said he would like today’s protest to be a first step
in changing UCSB’s overall political climate into one of activity
instead of apathy.

Questioning Authority

Indeed, protests%20129.jpglittle apathy was present among the
protestors for the duration of today’s events. Even though the
crowd eventually relented and marched back onto campus, it then
focused its energies on Cheadle Hall, which houses many of the
university’s administrative officials. Protestors demanded to speak
with Chancellor Henry Yang and have him answer their charges that
the UC system is furthering war efforts, for example, by pushing
its engineering researchers to work on weapons.

After much ruckus, Vice Chancellor Michael Young emerged and
explained that although Chancellor Yang was not in the office, he
would relay the message. Young said that he endorsed any citizen’s
right to protest. “All people should have the right to speak and do
so with dignity and respect,” he said. Shouts from the crowd
demanded for administration to respond to other concerns, as
well—among them, “What about nuclear weapons?”, “Yang has a cell
phone!” and “What about our brothers in jail?” Responding to the
last of these, Young responded that he’d heard that the two
arrested protestors had been released. And with assurances from
Young that the university would work with students to help
understand each other’s goals, the crowd dispersed.

“The more attention they can get, the better,” said UCSB student
Peter Borris, who watched the protest at Cheadle Hall. “I was just
in the army and the can call me back anytime, so I’m all for [the
protest]. Amberjae Freeman, a global studies graduate student, said
she was pleased to see such a large group protesting—particularly
one that included some of her students—though she said she was
somewhat troubled by the relatively fewer number of minority
students involved, especially given the number of student
organizations that traditionally support liberal causes. “The
absence of black and Latino [protestors] is noticeable to me in
particular,” she said.

One for the Team

Sergeant Dave protests%20094.jpgRobertson, acting as a spokesperson for
the CHP, said after the protest that the retreat from Highway 217
happened as a result of an agreement between police and the
marchers. “We can’t allow them to block access to campus, and the
leaders of the group agreed,” he said. Robertson, who admitted that
he had been at UCSB when student protests burned down Isla Vista’s
Bank of America building, also said he felt the decision to march
down the highway was poorly planned and could have easily resulted
in a less peaceful resolution than the one that occurred. “Their
idea is good, but their method is bad,” he said.

Robertson also said that he understood that the student
arrested, Jesse Carrieri, had been taken into custody for having
brandished a starter pistol. Later investigation, however, revealed
that the weapon in question had actually been a black water gun and
that Carrieri’s arrest happened as a result of his refusal to obey
a police officer’s orders to step away from the CHP’s makeshift

Carrieri, however, said he was not informed of his reason for
arrest until well after he had been taken into police custody.
Furthermore, he said the arrest stemmed from an officer’s
misunderstanding his curiosity into the protest’s legal standing.
“I went to an officer behind the barricade to ask a question, and
he tells me ‘Get back.’ I was trying to discern what law we were
breaking by being there—what we would be arrested for,” Carrieri
said. “It seemed totally ludicrous and pointless… I was questioning
authority, but literally, not rhetorically,” he said. “I was being
polite, but the second I crossed the line, so to speak, I become a
number to them. What was I in violation of? Questioning

Released about five hours after his arrest—and hours after Young
announced to the crowd that both arrested individuals had been let
go—Carrieri said he was surprised to see Chancellor Yang, who
offered to drive him from Santa Barbara County Jail back to Isla
Vista. For that unexpected presence, Carrieri said he was thankful.
“His being there helped expedite our release. They were saying I
might be in your cell over night,” he said.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.