What started off as a peaceful protest on February 12, 2008 near the Pardall Tunnel, turned into what some call a violent and disappointing scene. Three people were arrested and one, Patricia “Patty” Zavala, a fourth year Global Studies major, says she is a victim of “police brutality.”
Often associated with excessive force, police brutality is physical/verbal abuse, false arrest and other such dishonest acts of assault and intimidation. To Zavala, who has never been exposed to this kind of violence, brutality is what she experienced on February 12.
“I know brutality is a strong word, but I really do feel that way because when [the UCPD] violated my personal space, not only was it forceful or violent, but in my mind it was brutality.” Zavala is charged with two misdemeanors: petty theft and resisting arrest. Zavala believes that the media has totally distorted what happened that day, and wants everyone to know what really happened.
The ICB Army-Industry Collaboration Conference held at Corwin Pavilion was disrupted by student protestors who opposed military research on the UCSB campus. Zavala was one of three people that got arrested and says to this day it doesn’t make sense to her.
Patty believes that the first arrest led to unnecessary violence. Protestors did not want their fellow participant to be arrested for what seemed to them to be ridiculous reasons. “Our goal was to disrupt the conference,” said Zavala. “What we did were things that were necessary to be done to disrupt the conference. The worst thing we did was eat their cookies.”
Alex Harrison and Michael Miller, community members, were also arrested that afternoon. When students blocked in police cars carrying the two men, many people noticed the cops using force. Melissa Perez, a student that obstructed one of the police cars from leaving said she was grabbed and thrown aside by a police officer. “I was in shock because I didn’t think they would do that.”
It was 4:40 pm when ICB members began to leave the auditorium. The doors were wide open and the student protestors apparently wanted to speak to ICB members about everything that had occurred that day. Zavala was included in the crowd that entered the building. There were posters on display and Zavala took down two of them; she remembers holding them for about five minutes.
“All of a sudden a man approaches me and says ‘Give me those posters,’ and within seconds, two UCPD officers assaulted me,” said Zavala. “They forcefully grabbed my arms, threw me face forward smashing my head through the glass doors. When they threw me on the ground, my head hit the concrete and then two other officers dragged me to the car, walking so fast that I couldn’t put my feet down until I asked them to slow down because I wanted to walk.”
Zavala said she repeatedly yelled at police that they were hurting her. “I thought they would stop but they were only hurting me more.” Zavala said that she still has bruises all over her legs, knees and arms. Her wrists are especially sore since the handcuffs were so tight. She also developed a huge lump on her head from being thrust to the floor. Zavala went to Student Health where she had pictures and x-rays taken as documentation for future reference. Zavala says a friend was able to capture video footage of the incident, which enabled her to identify the police officers she claims assaulted her.
Zavala says after being shoved violently in the car, she noticed three people sitting behind it. She says that two officers then dragged them by their shirts. “The funny thing,” Zavala said “is that they were not obstructing anything. They had no reason to drag these students across the ground. They had every right to be there.” Zavala was taken to the UCPD station off of Mesa Road where she was detained for a few hours.
Zavala is still uncertain if she will have to go to court, but she is very upset about the possibility that these charges will go on her permanent record.
Like a growing number of students, Zavala urges participants who felt they were victims of police brutality to file a police misconduct report, press charges and speak out to the UCSB administration.
External Vice President of Local Affairs, Lindsey Quock deals with local, IV and campus affairs concerning the students safety and security. Quock was an observer/participant at the protest. “I was concerned for my own safety at certain times and I wasn’t even doing anything.”
Quock believes that the job of the officers was to maintain peace, but it did not seem to her that they did so in a calm and adequate manner. “I saw students dragged, and officers were raising their batons with an ‘I’m going to hit you intention,'” said Quock.
Quock hopes to compile every bit of information, pictures and statements from participants and onlookers so that she can set up a meeting between law enforcement, UCSB’s administration and students to prevent aggression and comportment.
“I feel that the administration is trying to evade responsibility because the interaction was with law enforcement, but a student was arrested on this campus and this is a big issue.”
Quock encourages the administration to take a proactive role in the situation, since it is their obligation to serve the students and their needs and not defer their power elsewhere.
“They should be communicating to serve the students and in the case of Patty, they should be doing everything possible to help her. This is the first time in a long time that a student was arrested on campus, the administration should be doing a lot more.”
Quock wants to ensure that students will be able to exercise their rights and will make a priority of student safety on campus in relation to law enforcement.
Although the protest did not turn out as expected, the ICB conference at UCSB was temporarily cancelled. Yousef Baker, who spoke at the beginning of the protest, said, â€œpolice brutality against protestors only goes to make visible the deep fundamentals that exist. The needs of the people aren’t primary anymore.”
UCPD Police could not be reached for comment, but in a previous interview with KCSB, spokesperson Matt Bowman described the atmosphere as safe and said that no one was hurt.
According to the February 14th interview, Bowman said that to his knowledge, instruments such as tasers, pepper spray, and batons were not used, and that police handled the situation professionally, using only their hands and bodies to overcome resistance.
A number of concerned students attended last night’s Goleta City Council meeting and plan to attend tonight’s Associated Students Legisilative Council meeting to present a proposal in response to claims of police brutality.
Anyone with film, written, and/or verbal accounts of harassment by police from the Feb. 12 demonstration are encouraged to attend tongiht’s leg council meeting at 5pm in the Flying A Room in the UCen to express their grievances and concerns.