Less than 24 hours after Elliot Rodger’s homicidal rampage rocked Isla Vista, UC Santa Barbara and the nation, several thousand people united Saturday night for a candlelight vigil and march, in a massive show of support for the victims.
More than 3,000 people gathered at UCSB’s Storke Plaza before walking with candles in hand through the streets of Isla Vista and to Anisq'Oyo' Park.
“I haven’t felt anything but peace tonight,” UCSB student Megan Carter told Noozhawk. “What is empowering is that everyone is coming together to show support.”
Rodger, 22, allegedly stabbed three people in his Seville Road apartment building before fatally shooting three other people — and wounding 13 more — on the streets of Isla Vista on Friday night.
He died of a gunshot wound to the head that authorities say may have been self-inflicted.
The killer left behind a video confession, posted on YouTube, in which he vowed to go on a rampage to get back at the women he claimed had rejected him sexually over the years. In the video, which went viral on the Internet, Rodger is sitting in a car and talking directly into a camera. He pledged to slaughter women — especially those who are sorority members — to take his “revenge” and “retribution.”
The shocking murder spree has gained national headlines and focused attention again on UCSB and Isla Vista, just a month after rioting broke out during the annual Deltopia street party.
Many of the students and residents who attended the vigil Saturday night said it was important for them to stand up for the community and support Isla Vista and UCSB, despite the recent events.
UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang attended the vigil, alongside several elected officials and their representatives.
“Words do not exist for me to express how saddened we are for what happened last night in Isla Vista,” Yang told the crowd at Anisq'Oyo' Park. “We grieve for the loss of such precious lives so early.”
Yang was one of dozens of speakers who took the open microphone at the park. The crowd sat on the grass holding candles as speakers expressed their grief and support for the victims.
Despite the horror of the violence, many of the speakers urged empathy for the killer and called on the crowd to turn its emotions into something positive.
“It’s really easy to get angry, but you really have to move forward,” said Elliott Goodman, who attended the vigil. “That boy was really mentally disturbed. People forget that. We need to take all the hatred out and go forward.”
Goodman, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student, came to the event to show support for his friend, UCSB student Jordan Sternberg. The two grew up together in Marin County.
“Tonight isn’t about wallowing in sadness,” Sternberg said. “It is about embracing the victims and showing the community we care.”
Sternberg said he hopes that people don’t paint UCSB and Isla Vista with a broad negative brush after Friday night’s carnage. Too many people focus on the negative, he said, but UCSB and Isla Vista are great communities.
“We have that party reputation, but this is really a kind, loving community,” he said. “Everyone here is so kind. It’s just such an amazing community.”