350 anti-war activists converged and clashed with police to disrupt, blockade and shut down the ICB Military/Industrial collaboration conference at UCSB this past Tuesday, February 12th.
ISLA VISTA / SANTA BARBARA, Tuesday, February 12, 2008
About 350 anti-war activists met to rally at Pardall Tunnel, where they were addressed by speakers at an open microphone, including a man from Iraq and a former Marine-turned-organizer. Emotions ran high and alternated between intense anger against the war, sadness over the loss of life, and hope, joy, and optimism for the future. At times, feelings were tense, and the police helicopter circling overhead made an ominous presence. The demonstrators shortly proceeded to converge on UCSB's Corwin Pavilion with the goal of shutting down the 2008 ICB (Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies) Army-Industry Collaboration Conference.
Police attempted to barricade the event against the approaching students, but the crowd forced itself through police lines and dismantled blockades. Police appeared helpless to stop the flow of demonstrators, who proceeded to occupy the courtyard in front of the pavilion, where collaborators, some in business suits and others, more honestly, in military fatigues, had been in the midst of a lunch break.
While the crowd went wild in their occupied space, the entire area was redecorated using chalk and marker. A space previously reserved for war makers was soon covered in anti-war, anti-government, pro-peace, and pro-freedom slogans, as well as peace signs, hearts, circle-A's, and the now-infamous Anarchy Heart, a common symbol amongst today's growing anarchist movement. Also present were anti-police messages and web addresses for sites like crimethinc.com and indymedia.org.
While most were encouraging the act of reclaiming space, some present felt hesitant about the property destruction, especially police, as it represented a physical blow to the military conference they were protecting, rather than simply a symbolic one.
At the same time, several black-bloc anarchists grabbed open trays of food from the conference and distributed them amongst demonstrators, police, and collaborators alike. "Cookies for the Revolution!! As Free and Beautiful as all of you!" were the words of one masked young man as he carried around a liberated tray of sweets.
At this point protestors locked down, keeping some military collaborators outside, and some locked in. Police attempted to pull some students away from the doors forcefully, but were met with heavy resistance.
Solidarity amongst the students and other demonstrators seemed to be the best it's been in Santa Barbara since the late 1960's. When two young men were grabbed by the police without apparent cause, the crowd leaped upon them and attempted to secure their freedom. As police brought out batons and pushed back against the crowd, the young men were dragged away. At this point, a large portion of the crowd charged and cut off the police, surrounding their cars, sitting down and linking arms, refusing to allow the police cruisers to leave until the eventual release of the young men had been negotiated, despite the threatening presence of armed and dangerous riot cops. The only charges ever filed against these young men, as justification for their arrest, were one charge each of 'resisting arrest'. So much for freedom of speech; welcome to America.
As the battle raged on, occupations and blockades of the war collaborators inside their conference continued. At some points, demonstrators who had snuck into the meeting managed to burst through the doors, and students and police both rushed to get in first. It was always the police, who would quickly drive the peace protestors back with batons and raised cans of pepper spray.
At one point, one of the meeting doors was wedged open and kept that way with the help of a couple plastic bottles jammed in the crack. A megaphone was placed up against the open crack and every tactic imaginable was used to raucously disrupt the proceedings inside. Several resistors fought police away from the opportunity the crack presented until the crowd rushed in to push police back.
One policeman, a certain Officer Stern, grabbed and twisted a young woman's arm in apparent frustration at his impotence in removing the bottles jammed in the doorway.
Disruption, speeches, songs, and acts of defiance continued as the sun was beginning to set.
Suddenly, there was an opportunity; the doors were unlocked, and, while riot police managed to secure two doors, a third was forced open and the protest rushed inside.
The meeting was just about finished, but as the march moved into the building, the same young woman whose arm had been twisted previously was grabbed around the throat from behind by two and then more police as she was removing posters from the walls of the conference. The crowd rushed to her defense, but was beaten back by riot cops with batons and pepper spray, and she was beaten, slammed into a glass door, and forced face down on the cement before being dragged away.
The conference had been successfully disrupted, but there would be another act of resistance. The crowd beat the police to their cruisers and another standoff took place as they locked down once again to prevent the removal of the young woman. It seemed as if the police were more agitated then before, having failed to prevent the disruption of the Army's conference. In response to accusations of brutality from the crowd, police made nervous excuses, claiming to have been attempting to secure the 'free speech' of the war makers, or to have been 'only following orders'.
Organizers addressed the crowd, reminding them that the police did not have a legal leg to stand on, and that these senseless acts of brutality in defense of war had no legitimacy, and therefore, the entire law enforcement apparatus present had no more legitimacy in the eyes of the war resistors. The sitting crowd, arms linked in solidarity, managed to remain locked despite attempts at forceful dispersal by the police present, and they faced down the riot police yet again, until it was clear that the young woman would be cited and released, at which point demonstrators allowed the police cruiser to beat a hasty retreat. The young woman's current condition is unknown to this reporter.
UPDATE: Word has been received from an anonymous source amongst the catering team working at the conference that the Military has been successfully forced from UCSB, and the second day of the 2-day conference is to be carried on downtown at an undisclosed location. To those who chanted 'UCSB, Military Free!!' this means a dramatic success; the removal of representatives from the most powerful military institution the world has ever seen from their University. Despite this victory, protestors will meet at Corwin Pavilion today, Wednesday, February 13th, at 12 noon, to celebrate and discuss the next steps in uprooting the roots of imperialism from the soil of the Santa Barbara community.
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