Hundreds Take to the Streets in Santa Barbara After Viral Video Sparks Outrage

Demonstrators Shut Down Streets on Sunday Evening in Response to Video Showing Alleged Racial Incident

Credit: Don Brubaker

[Updated: Tue., Sept. 19, 2023, 9:52am]

The corner of Garden and Micheltorena streets was packed Sunday night as demonstrators shut down the intersection for several hours in a gathering that was organized in response to viral videos showing what appears to be a Santa Barbara woman harassing a construction worker and spewing racially derogatory language.

In the two videos, which were recorded by the construction worker and shared by Los Angeles–based activist Edin Alex Enamorado, the woman — who was identified later as a neighbor and former UCSB law lecturer Jeanne T. Umana — confronts the man at a property on East Micheltorena Street. 

The construction worker, who was only identified as “Luis,” begins by recording Umana, who is walking around alone inside the house on the property before being informed that she is trespassing. Upon being told she is on private property, Umana says: “I work for the police. That’s okay.”

After being asked to leave, she begins to push back, asking the man for information about his employer and about the property owner. 

“I live here. I am American,” she says. “You’re a Tijuanan.”

As she walks away, she turns back around and appears to slap the phone out of the man’s hand as she says: “I am very much against people who are breaking the law.”

The video sparked outrage on social media, and in the second video, Enamorado — who has made a name for himself online for his activism defending street vendors throughout California — posts a clip of himself on a phone call with Umana where he tells her he is a journalist.

In the clip, Umana is heard saying that she entered the property after seeing flashing lights on a work vehicle. She intended to find the property owner “so I could register my concerns about these people — this gentleman — breaking the law,” she says.

When Enamorado pushes against Umana about impersonating an officer, she responds by saying: “I said I worked with the police; I didn’t say I was one.”

Umana declined to provide further comments on the record to the Independent, though in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, she is quoted as saying: “My judgment went very, very badly” and that she “regrets making statements like that.”

Enamorado made a public callout for a “religious gathering” at 8 p.m. Sunday night on the corner of Garden and Micheltorena; the post gained traction on social media, and by evening, there were more than 250 people packed into the intersection.

[Click to enlarge] Credit: Don Brubaker

For nearly two hours, the crowd chanted and fireworks flew into the night while cars burned rubber and honked their horns in solidarity and several speakers took to the megaphone to share their thoughts.

“You’re not doing it for you. You’re doing it for your abuela; you’re doing it for the next Brown kid who’s going to get treated like shit,” Enamorado shouted during one point. “It’s not your fault — it’s your responsibility.”

After shutting down the corner at Micheltorena, the group marched down Garden to a construction site, where they showed some love to a group of workers before heading over to the police station. They were met there by City Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez, who promised to work with the police department to pursue any charges that may stem from the video.

[Click to enlarge] Credit: Don Brubaker

Michael Montenegro, a community historian and activist behind Chicano Culture S.B., was livestreaming the event on Instagram. 

After the demonstration, he told the Independent that these types of incidents — which he described as “brazen Karen behavior” — happen more often than most locals would like to admit, despite the city being nearly 40 percent Latino.

“Luis’s experience is far too common, and thank goodness we have cameras to let the world know that the type of discrimination that blue-collar workers of Latin American heritage face is far too common,” he said.

“Who built this city? Nosotros [Us]! Who keeps the city clean and beautiful? Nosotros! Who takes care of the children and elderly? Nosotros! Who makes the food delicious in Santa Barbara? Nosotros!”

He added that he was glad to see so many people show up to defend the workers of their community, and that the event showed how much power the people can have when called upon.

“It was beautiful to see our community come together, a day after Mexican Independence Day, to celebrate our cultura for a racist Santa Barbara ‘Karen,’” Montenegro said. 

[Click to enlarge] Demonstrators gather in front of the Santa Barbara Police Station on Figueroa Street. | Credit: Don Brubaker

The Santa Barbara Police Department, which was aware of the gathering but allowed the group to demonstrate freely, released a statement Monday regarding the incident in question, particularly Umana’s claim that she worked with the police.

In the statement, Santa Barbara Police spokesperson Sgt. Ethan Ragsdale said that the gathering was “in response to a disturbing video of an interaction between two individuals posted on social media.”

“In the video,” Ragsdale continues, ”a woman stated, ‘I work for the police.’ The woman has no affiliation with the Santa Barbara Police Department, and the police department does not condone her behavior.”

The “troubling video,” Ragsdale said, “understandably stirred emotions and reactions within our community. The Santa Barbara Police Department monitored the gathering and supports the right for all individuals to peacefully assemble in order to voice their concerns.”

No charges have been announced regarding the initial incident, though Ragsdale said the department is “actively looking into” the situation. “Since this is an ongoing investigation, I cannot provide any more information at this time,” he said.


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