Deltopia 2014

I’m a parent of a UC student, and I find it totally reprehensible to see the blatant provocation by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office in instigating the riots in I.V. First, they banned Floatopia, a peaceful, fun-loving, float-oriented day at the beach, ostensibly because there was too much drinking and partying. Hey, can we say Spring Break? This was a patently ridiculous move by the Sheriff’s Office. This, after all, was a celebration that was a tradition for over a decade, and it was nixed just four years ago. The apparent reason offered was there was too much “pollution.” If the 25,000 attendees drove to another venue to celebrate, the “pollution” levels would be geometrically higher. The real pollution is in the minds of those who enacted the ban: political grinches, using the Sheriff’s deputies as their enforcers.

Seriously, who in their right mind would have come up with the idea that students can’t have a once-a-year, joyful beach party? Can the person taking credit, please raise his or her hand? Apparently, there are cruel, vengeful, spiteful people who have never had a childhood or can dream a dream.

Devastated, the students fashioned a creative and fun alternative: take their energy and need for partying to Deltopia; a land-locked street party at I.V. This event, now in its third year, was a creative alternative to Floatopia and an answer to the fascistic, no-beach-partying dictum. Tens of thousands of folks from outside the area planned to attend, along with the tens of thousands of Santa Barbara students, but unfortunately, that was not to be. The Sheriff sent out emails and texts to students a week before the event: “no music permitted” — essentially banning that event. WTF? The sheriff clearly has too much time on his hands, or an alternative and more sinister motive. I think it was the latter.

Are they kidding, is this the Kremlin? Have they forgotten that UCSB is the bread and butter, both a major economic engine and cultural institution of the county? I understand passing royal edicts and banning popular events may be popular with some power-mad political classes, but, really, banning Deltopia? Particularly after banning Floatopia, this is too much to countenance. This is the tail wagging the dog. Someone needs to sue the sheriff and the county so they can get the message — lighten up and let the students have their Floatopia back.

It gets worse. What was unknown is that Sheriff’s Office had both planned and instigated a riot. According to multiple student reports, at the start of Deltopia, the Sheriff’s deputies were literally going house to house in I.V., confiscating speakers and amplifiers played in homes and adding insult to injury — citing the students for playing music! The students and their guests poured out to the street angrily. Who wouldn’t? When was the last time storm troopers acted so heavy handed in I.V. and in the students’ own homes no less?

The Sheriff’s deputies knew their actions would get push back, and I’m now thinking that with the increasing militarization of our nation’s police forces (the Department of Homeland Security has been subsidizing local police departments with crowd control gear), the deputies were itching for a fight and wishing to try out all their SWAT gear and crowd-control equipment, and they did. No stone was left unturned; they beat students and tear gassed student, conducted mass arrests, etc.

How many readers believe a riot would have ensued without the heavy-handed, bullying intervention of the Sheriff’s department? If the Sheriff’s department would have been mere casual observers of Deltopia, as they had been in the past two years? If they had, no riot would have ensued. Without the aggressive, confrontational, and militarized Sheriff’s department tactics, which unleashed every tactical tool in their toolbox, including calling in all local police departments for a larger show of force, Deltopia would have a simple, sun-filled, spring day of partying in I.V.

The solution? Bring back Floatopia and restore peace to the world.


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