On Oct. 30, a coalition of UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), Isla Vista (I.V.), and Goleta organizations protested the increased police presence within I.V. during Halloween weekend with a community festival at Walter Capps Park. The Bottom Line (TBL) interviewed the organizers and attendees to learn more about the organizations’ goals and how the #FreeIV Halloween festival came to be.
This weekend, I.V. and UCSB witnessed a great surge in police activity and monitoring, including an earlier noise ordinance for 6 p.m. and strict fencing around UCSB residence halls.
Some students believe that the county has increased police based on an infamous history of past Halloween weekends. In past years, communities saw out-of-town visitors flocking to their neighborhoods where they, along with local residents, would damage public and private property throughout Goleta.
Amid live music, arts and crafts picnic blankets, and small-business booths, organizers of the Free I.V. event discussed the negative impacts that policing has had on I.V. and community-based ways to counter such need for police militarization.
However, with police presence rising to unprecedented levels, many argue that there should be alternative ways in which dangerous situations are handled, as well as a change in how residential funds are being spent to prevent them.
“Basically, our community is facing a multitude of crises,” Skyler Payab, the Vice-President of UCSB’s Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), told TBL. “And instead they’re funneling just insane amounts of money into policing our community during Halloween weekend, and we think that that’s a gross misallocation of funds.”
In reference to such crises, Payab cited the infamous housing crisis as well as college affordability and food insecurity.
Concerning the amounts of money going into police monitoring, YDSA’s Co-Chair, Taylor Clark, explained that the university does not disclose how much money is spent on police funding and resources during Halloween.
“It obviously does take a lot of money to get UCPD from across the state to I.V. for this weekend, and that’s tax and tuition dollars that we have to pay the bill for,” Clark told TBL during the event. “That actively detriments our capacity to live our lives here [and] actively gets in the way of us being able to go about our days in our own community.”
Speakers at the festival focused on how increased police presence negatively impacts marginalized students — such as people of color, undocumented students, and formerly incarcerated residents.
At Free IV, a representative from the Cops Off Campus Youth Coalition who wished to stay anonymous told TBL that their status as an undocumented student creates a great fear of cops in Santa Barbara due to the county’s history with ICE.
“Undocumented students have to be able to step on campus and feel safe and know that, you know, they will make it home,” the student said.
This feeling of safety, the anonymous student Cops Off Campus stated, is especially threatened by the presence of police officers on campuses around the Santa Barbara area.
Noel, a high-schooler from Cops Off Campus, explained that they have successfully worked to get Student Resource Officers (SROs) out of San Marcos High School. The coalition joined Free I.V. under similar objectives with I.V.’s neighborhood policing during Halloween.
Gina Sawaya, a Food Not Bombs Isla Vista organizer who spoke in an earlier interview with the Daily Nexus, talked about how increased policing in I.V. during Halloween could also be avoided through inter-community de-escalation.
She stated that, according to a study done by the I.V. Community Service District in 2019, the majority of arrests during Halloween were done for nonviolent offenses.
“We’re talking about … things that we can solve internally,” Sawaya told the Daily Nexus, “without violent police forces, putting people in jail overnight or putting people in the drunk tanks.”
One way the community protestors practice inter-community de-escalation is by having volunteers go through a several-hour training program that focuses on preventing such nonviolent offenses. These fifteen to twenty volunteers, who are marked by neon yellow wristbands, were also present at the Free I.V. event, and are trained to be police liaisons with harm reduction and de-escalation tactics.
“And so part of what we hope to accomplish with this event is to demonstrate that we have the capacity as students and residents of I.V. to have safe events ourselves,” Clark remarked, “and we don’t need them to be organized by the university or by the cops … we don’t need police oversight to make that happen in a safe way.”