War protesters shut California’s Highway 217

From the Santa Barbara Independent, Feb. 15:

Ignoring the restrictions imposed by the mere geometry of UCSB’s curbs and sidewalks, students marching today in protest of the University of California’s involvement with military efforts stepped across the newly installed roundabout at the campus’s east entrance and walked down Highway 217 toward a cluster of California Highway Patrol vehicles. The crowd—nearly one thousand, according to event planners, though more conservative estimates place the number closer to 500—had convened initially in Isla Vista at Pardall Road, in front of a tunnel underpass through which many UCSB students ride their bikes to get to class. Part of the protest included a strike that discouraged students from attending class in symbolism of a decisive break from “business as usual.” Thus, the spot was integral for the protestors to hail passers-by to drop their daily activities in favor of joining the rally. However, the class walkout—which some students disobeyed, even if they purported to support the protest—paled in comparison to the literal walk down the principal highway leading into campus, which stopped traffic.

As UC Police Department officers redirected cars trying to exit campus, the mob of protestors stood before the CHP, who told students not to step past their line of cars. The presence of the officers prevented the protest from reaching the 101, which some in the crowd alleged was their plan, but the barricade also resulted in an hour-long confrontation between the two entities. Despite the size of the student protest group and the riot gear CHP officers sported, the worst of the interaction was limited to two arrests. Former UCSB student Jesse Carrieri was taken into custody for disobeying a peace officer, as was a women’s studies department professor, Mireille Miller-Young.

Protestors sat on the pavement of Highway 217 and listened to speakers address the group with words of encouragement, news of other opportunities for political activism and the like. “I wasn’t planning on coming today. I was on the bus,” said Dos Pueblos High School student Adam Rothman, referencing a public transit vehicle that had been completely stopped from circling the roundabout when the march halted it. The crowd met this identification with cheers. Other speakers spoke about the protest being sadly uncharacteristic of the crop of young adults. “Our generation is the one that will be remembered for iPods and ignorance,” said a speaker. “We’re the generation that is willing to get arrested for public intoxication on the weekend on [Del Playa Drive] and not in a protest for civil disobedience.” Jeronimo Saldana, a member of UCSB’s Associated Students Legislative Council who took part in the protest, praised the crowd for coming as far as they had. “We shut down the university as of now. We’re showing our solidarity,” he said. “This is beautiful. Let’s keep this going on.”

See our last post on the anti-war effort.