Unclear Results of UCSB Anti-Military Rally

Protestors Claim Day Two of Conference Cancelled; UCSB Disagrees

Protesters lock arms surrounding the police car detaining arrested activist Michael Miller.
Paul Wellman

The protest came and went, as protests do. And just as the protestors and protested have opposite opinions on the matter that initially caused all the ruckus, some disagreement now exists between organizers of the February 12 rally against UCSB’s Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies (ICB) – a powwow of academic, military and industry representatives – and members of the ICB themselves.

On February 13, a press statement from some of those responsible for the protest touted a victory in having “forced the US Army’s ICB to cancel the second day of its annual conference at UC Santa Barbara.” The statement noted that protest organizers had contacted Santa Barbara’s Hotel Mar Monte, where conference attendees had allegedly been staying, and that hotel staff confirmed that that event’s second day did not occur. A Feb. 13 Daily Nexus follow-up on the protest indicated also indicated that the conference had been truncated.

Upon contacting Paul Desruisseaux, UCSB’s Associate Chancellor of Public Affairs, however, the Independent was told that the second day of the conference did happen, just at an undisclosed off-campus location. “It was so disruptive on the campus,” Desruisseaux said. “They were banging on the walls and making noise, and it was not acceptable [to hold the conference there].” UCSB chemical engineering professor Frank Doyle, an ICB director, seemed to agree, saying that the conference achieved everything it had set out to do. Doyle declined to offer an opinion about the protest on behalf of the institute itself or even state his personal opinion about it, though he did say that he “found it troubling that it was viewed as peaceful protest.” Finally, he expressed a desire that the two groups would be able to communicate again, under different circumstances. “We’d welcome the chance for a more civilized discussion,” he said, though he also noted that he did not know of any effort yet on the part of the protestors to initiate this.

Zack Ezell – described in the protest organizers’ statement as a community organizer- explained how the protestors came to the conclusion that the second day had been cancelled. According to him, when some members of the protesting group went to the Hotel Mar Monte, staff told them that ICB attendees had checked out. The group had some indication of where the ICB conference would have lunch on Wednesday as a result of knowing people who were working at the event, but the restaurant told them that the reservation had been cancelled. A representative of the Hotel Mar Monte could not confirm whether the second day of the ICB conference happened, because the event was not associated with the hotel.

The statement from the protest organizers also indicated other goings-on not featured in the Independent‘s previous news story on the event, including the protestors’ claims that police who arrested three people did so violently, that the alleged Tasering of one student was captured on video tape, and that an ICB conference attendee lunged at Patricia Zavala, the student who infiltrated UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion. Actions toward protestors “[epitomized] the militarism that protestors sought to address,” the statement opined, before describing at length Zavala’s arrest: “Two police officers subsequently rushed [Zavala], wrenched her arms behind her back and threw her to the ground, before forcefully pushing her face-first against glass double doors. Once outside, they threw her face-down on the concrete before roughly dragging her to the police car as she wailed in pain.”

UC Police spokesperson Officer Matt Bowman responded to some of these allegations and denied that any of the action taken by other officers in his presence would have constituted unnecessary roughness with the protestors. “I can assure you that there was no abusive treatment,” he said. In his perspective, both the first two arrested people, Michael Miller and Alex Harrison, were treated fairly, from the first time the men were approached until when they were escorted away from the protest scene. “When officers were attempting to move the first subject, Miller, he tried to do almost everything he could to prevent being separated from the group,” Bowman noted. “The initial interaction could have been a simple citation or verbal warning, but it ended up resulting in the whole melee: To their credit, Miller [and Harrison] weren’t physically fighting the officers. They were just resisting.” Bowman also recalled what he called strange behavior on the part of other protestors after they had been contacting by police. He said he personally participated in one interaction in which grabbed the T-shirt of a man who was blocking a door way, at which point the man began convulsing as through he was pretending to have a seizure or to have been Tasered. In Bowman’s perspective, neither instance was the case. UC officers do not carry Tasers, he said, and so far, he said he’s heard of no documentation of such force being used – “And if someone was Tasered, that is an event that would have generated paperwork,” he said. In the case of Zavala, Bowman said officers would have used the force necessary “We are paid and duty-bound to overcome resistance when we are carrying out the law,” he said.


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