Batman, hotdogs, sailors and others garbed in Halloween costumes rallied downtown Wednesday evening, blocking State Street traffic between De La Guerra and Ortega streets. The crowd, estimated at 150-200 people by police, attracted several hundred onlookers as they chalked the streets and danced, continually shouting “Our street!”
At approximately 6:45 p.m., folk-punk band Oso set up instruments on State Street, using an electrical outlet outside Ruby’s Cafe to power their speakers and amplifiers. Strobe lights, smoke machines and music filled the street as the crowd grew in mass. Police in riot gear established barricades to prevent cars from entering either end of State Street between. “We’re reclaiming the streets from shopping and driving,” a young man who identified himself as the Green Psycho Fairy Granny said. “We’re manifesting the type of community we want to see on the streets.”
Near De La Guerra, a banner stating, “Reclaim the streets,” stood fixed between two shopping cars packed to the brim with wrapped loaves of generic bread. Messages chalked into asphalt read “I heart SB,” “Reclaim the streets,” and “In times of peace the militant man attacks himself.” Anarchy symbols mingled with drawings of hearts, cats and suns.
A young woman dressed as Tank Girl identified herself as Margaux and claimed to be one of the instigators of the protest. “It’s about reclaiming the streets,” she said. When asked from what they were reclaiming, she replied, “I don’t know, cars I suppose. When do we ever get to?” Though the protestors themselves did not seem clear on the specific purpose of the protest, an email sent out to members of various UCSB-based anti-war organizations stated the Halloween ruckus was done in support of a movement called “Reclaim the Streets.”
Tired of the usual Halloween debauchery in Isla Vista? Want to participate in something radically different, a little more wild and wonderful? Some folks around town are planning a Reclaim the Streets Party for Halloween : Think Bacchus, Burning Man, bonfire, sideshow, circus, pandemonium. Think creatively : Expect games, music, dancing, and all of the fun that goes along with taking over a city block!
Throngs of onlookers filled the sidewalks of State Street, watching and photographing the hundred or so protestors that shouted as they danced. A ninja beckoned people to join in.
At approximately 7:15 p.m., Oso stopped performing and a police presence grew within the crowd, amid anti-authoritarian insults. Policemen photographed individuals of the band as well as a number of protestors who shouted “Our streets!”
“It seems important for people to reclaim public space,” said Oso member Phil Taylor, who was dressed like a bunny. “I think spontaneous shows of humanistic support in these turbulent times are important.” When asked if the band held a part in planning the protest, a member claimed, “No, we just showed up.”
At approximately 7:45 p.m., the crowd flocked up State Street, weaving their way through Paseo Nuevo, throwing chunks of bread around the alleyway as they passed Santa Barbara Roasting Company. The crowd of about fifty individuals continued north on Chapala Street, blocking cars and disobeying traffic signals, causing drivers from all directions to honk their horns. Squad cars followed the crowd along Chapala and Figueroa Street until crossing Anacapa Street near the Arrellaga Street intersection. Officers in riot gear leapt out of squad cars and onto the sidewalk to detain individuals who were part of the crowd.
At approximately 8:15 p.m. fifteen individuals were detained and, according to Lieutenant David Whitham, ten were cited minor infractions for causing a hazard and jaywalking. Whitham explained that those cited for jaywalking were walking against traffic around the 1400 block of Anacapa Street, where it was dark and they were putting themselves in danger. A few individuals were cited misdemeanors for producing false names. No arrests were made. “[Our] main goal was to prevent it from escalating into major violence,” said Lt. Whitham. “Nobody was injured. Nobody was vandalized.”
In a interview on Thursday, Whitham characterized the protestors as “quasi-anarchist,” “anti-police,” “anti-establishment,” “non-violent,” and “not all that well-organized.” He also noted that a large part of the group – including those cited for jaywalking – were high school-aged.