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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 12:40 am | Fair 45º


Singer Jack Johnson Plays at UCSB Remembrance Event of Isla Vista Mass Murder

Speakers pay tribute to the six students who died in the May 23 rampage by Elliot Rodger in Isla Vista

Several thousand UCSB students got a surprise Wednesday afternoon as singer-songwriter Jack Johnson made an unannounced visit to the university, playing a set during a remembrance event called "Come Together: Remember, Reconnect and Unite" to honor the students who lost their lives in the May 23 mass murder in Isla Vista.

Between songs like "Better Together" that had the crowd singing along, Johnson charmed the audience, recalling his days as a UCSB undergrad living in Isla Vista and seeing bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket play where he and his band played Wednesday afternoon, at the base of Storke Tower in front of a packed plaza of undergraduate students.

Johnson's performance was coordinated by the Associated Students, which hoped to reach out to students who were returning to school, and had just left the university when tragedy struck last spring.

A message of not forgetting the students who were lost in the rampage carried out by Elliot Rodger was echoed by each speaker who took the microphone on Wednesday.

Associated Students President Ali Guthy read the names of the six UCSB students who perished on May 23 — George Chen, Katherine Cooper, Cheng Yuan "James" Hong, Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, Weihan "David" Wang and Veronika Weiss.

The entire plaza of students took a moment of silence after the names were read.

"We remember them," Guthy said.

Most poignant were the words from Michael Young, who will soon be retiring from his position as Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs.

Jack Johnson performs a set during Wednesday's remembrance event. (Steve Kennedy photo)

Under a banner that read "Come Together," Young took the stage and lamented the tough year 2014 has posed to the community.

"What do you say about the year we've just had?" he asked the audience.

Young recalled the masses of students moving somberly across the field of Harder Stadium before the university held its memorial just days after the killings.

That image "will be with me the rest of my life," he said.

Young also called to mind the events of the Deltopia riots and the toll of that night's events on the community. 

Fixing what is broken in Isla Vista will be up to the students who live there, he said.

Santa Barbara County and the university have roles to play but the responsibility is ultimately on the students to decide what to tolerate, he said. 

In 25 years with the university, Young said the dark and sinister underbelly of Isla Vista has always been there, but that these days more than ever, "it's more sinister and harsh and dangerous."

"It's up to you to determine, decide and enforce what will be tolerated in Isla Vista," he told the students.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Students gather at Storke Plaza on Wednesday for the remembrance event. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

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