As a Sheriff’s Department helicopter circled above UCSB at noon on Tuesday, protestors clogged Pardall Tunnel, the underpass that connects the school’s campus with Isla Vista. Student activist group S.B. Antiwar had organized them to decry the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies (ICB) conference, which brings UCSB researchers together with military officials and representatives from corporations like Raytheon. Police watched from a distance as several speakers explained their grievances with the meeting as well as their goals for the protest-among them, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina and an Iraq War veteran who faulted the government for what he perceived as its failures to properly care for military members.
Come that evening, the two gatherings-the conference and the protest-resulted in some tense showdowns between dissenters and those in various positions of authority, exchanges that got to the heart of the hawks-versus-doves debate concerning current U.S. military efforts, and the arrest of three people. While UC Police estimated that between 200 and 300 protesters were present, S.B. Antiwar claimed more than 400. Numbers fluctuated as classes ended. Some professors even cancelled classes so students could attend the event.
And while those involved initially amassed at Pardall Tunnel around noon, by 1 p.m., they set out for UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion, which held the ICB conference. The few police at the conference were instantly overwhelmed by the mob of protesters, and lunching conference-goers were suddenly beset with rowdy intruders. Tables were overturned and students stormed the buffet, quickly devouring anything edible. Most conference participants were able to get back into their meeting room before police forced their way to the door and sealed it off to prevent protesters from entering. An unlucky few were stranded outside staring down bullhorns and angry, painted faces. Some protestors attempted to calmly ask conference-goers why they had participated. Others merely shouted. Most lunchers appeared angered by the crowd, but U.S. Army Col. Jonathan Jaffin shrugged and chuckled at the mob, saying, “They’re doing their thing.” Once the conference room had been sealed off by police, protesters chanted and made as much noise as they could to be disruptive.
The crowd flared when Goleta resident Michael Miller, 22, was arrested on charges of obstructing an officer. As police attempted to take him into custody, the young man held on tightly to a pole and fellow protesters attempted to anchor him down. Police shoved, and the students shoved back. Eventually, officers moved the man to a squad car in a nearby parking lot. When the police car attempted to leave, protesters sat down and blocked the only exit out of the lot. In the mlee, police also arrested Alex Harrison, also on obstruction charges. Harrison was placed in a second squad car. When this car attempted to leave, another group moved quickly to sit in front of it. The protest abruptly became a stalemate, however, with both sides eager for action but hesitant to act. Police eventually manipulated the crowd enough that the first man could be moved into another car and both could escape. Both men were later released.
Despite the ruckus, the ICB conference had resumed, with protesters chanting all the while. At one point, two conference participants came out to speak to the students and explain the purpose of their meeting, but the crowd was not appeased. A third arrest took place when UCSB student Patricia Zavala infiltrated the conference. According to UC Police, Zavala began ripping down posters for ICB and was arrested on charges of petty theft, resisting an officer, trespassing, and vandalism. Conference members eventually trickled out through the UCen. A few researchers stopped to debate with students, but most refused to comment. This reporter overhead one remark: “These children ought to know what their fathers think of them.”
Many in the crowd were disappointed with the turnout, especially in light of previous UCSB protests, like the historic 1970 one that resulted in the burning of Isla Vista’s Bank of America building or even last year’s, in which more than 500 students marched onto Highway 217, shutting it down for several hours and resulting in two arrests. Aileen Santos, a fourth-year women’s studies and sociology major who was present last year, was worried that few people would show up to this year’s event as a result of what happened last year. “I didn’t think it was really responsible,” she said of the roadway march.
Also among those present was UCSB Campus Republicans chairman Jerad Ferguson, a political science and history major, who said his group attended to show that not everyone is against the war. “If we had a pro-war protest, I don’t think professors would have cancelled classes,” he said. Many passersby commented that they would have attended the protest but they had class and, more importantly, midterms.