For the past three years that I have lived in Isla Vista, I have had a fair number of frustrations at this little town.
I have had my car spray painted allegedly by a gang from Ventura. I have had my home broken into by two men who don’t even attend school in the area. I have had my car mirror torn off numerous times.
I have been groped, harassed, and bothered by aggressive inebriated people. Despite the damage to personal property or psyche, nothing can top the frustration I feel after last night’s Deltopia events.
As a senior, I was looking to enjoy this unsanctioned event stress free. My housemates and I had some trusted friends who were having parties at their homes and we had promised a few others we would stop by to spend time together.
Around noon, after listening to people yelling and screaming in the street since 9 a.m, my housemates and I finally headed out. What awaited us was far from the stress free environment I had envisioned.
Thousands of people lined the streets seemingly with nowhere to go. Students were already being arrested and it was only slightly past noon.
I separated from my friends at one point and was left walking by myself to a friend’s house, having to dodge through groups of men antagonizing me about my looks.
With the amount of people in Isla Vista, cell reception was absolutely terrible. No one could send a text message let alone get a dial tone on a phone call.
To lose a friend meant you wouldn’t find them the rest of the day. After a long afternoon of loosing my group, a few of us headed back to my Oceanside home to have dinner before heading out for the night.
Once we left my house the second time, we could sense things were more out of hand. A helicopter circled a smaller radius near the center of Isla Vista with a floodlight shinning down.
We started walking away from campus down Del Playa and we passed by a police officer that seemed to be barricading the street. We tried asking questions to understand what was going on and to see if we could return this way, but the officer would not disclose any information.
Now being blocked off from returning home we headed straight into the chaos.
From behind the crowd on Sabado Tarde, no one could really tell what was going on. We would hear loud bangs followed by clouds of gas. As the gas came closer, we would have to dart out of the way of hundreds of people running away and trampling anyone in their path.
We decided to try going to a friend’s house, nearly three blocks away. We found side streets and tried our best to find a path to get us there. What is usually a five-minute trip took us nearly 15 minutes while briskly walking.
Every block more tear gas, more running crowds, and more impassable streets stopped us.
My boyfriend that was with us related it to videos he had seen of the conflicts in Syria. Although a bit extreme of a comparison, the chaos of what was happening did leave us feeling like we were in the middle of a war zone running for our lives.
Once we finally made it to our friend’s house, we stood on the porch near the front door watching massive amounts of tear gas flood the streets and people pushing one another to run as quickly away from the gas as possible. People further down the street couldn’t stop screaming, and others walked by with a look of sheer confusion over what was happening.
After laying low for nearly an hour, I wanted to be safely in my own home. My housemates and I said our goodbyes and then left, hoping that our area of the street would not be blocked off.
We live on the end of the 6700 block of Del Playa, and were currently waiting it out on the 6500 block. We carefully constructed a plan to go five blocks away from the chaos, three blocks over away from campus, and then back up and one block over again towards our home.
If our street was blocked off, we had a friend who lived within the area that could take us in until things calmed down. We set off on our journey.
At this point, I expected that most people would be heading home to safety. The apparent riots had begun nearly three hours earlier, and after massive amounts of tear gas and rubber bullets, I couldn’t imagine anyone would want to stay outside.
This was simply not the case. Every block I ran by I was faced with large groups of students blaring music and dancing in the streets. Others were fleeing from the tear gas just to run back towards it once the gas faded away.
No one seemed to grasp the gravity of the situation and seemed instead intent on continuing to party regardless of what officers did. As I turned the corner and saw my house, a group of people walked by shouting proudly about having contributed to shutting down Deltopia.
Once I finally made it to my house, I listened from my bedroom to my neighbors yelling at people as they tried to break into our cars parked in front of our homes. Some students came back and asked if they could just sit in our hallway for safety until their street wasn’t blocked off.
They lived on the 6600 block of Del Playa where all of the chaos was happening, and they just wanted somewhere to sit safely away from the aggressive herds of people chanting “USA” and cheering whenever tear gas came their way.
No words are accurate enough to fully explain how I really feel about this entire situation. Even as I sit here writing this, what I have described of what I saw doesn’t do the experience justice. In my three years of living in Isla Vista, I have never seen things so out of control and I have never been so embarrassed to be a Gaucho.
Although it’s difficult to assign blame to these events, one thing became really clear to me as I was trying to get to safety. A lot of people that were here for this weekend were not from the area or even visiting anyone who lived here.
When I was running down the street back home, I heard people saying they didn’t know where to go because they didn’t have friends here and were planning on sleeping in their cars.
Even the day before, when I was at the grocery store, I listened to the cashier talking to the group of men in front of me. Out of the five men, none of them were from Santa Barbara, and all of them were upwards of 24-years-old or older.
In the weeks leading up to Deltopia, campaigns to stop the event or to localize the event were running rampant. People understood the difficulties in having an event like this and rightfully so felt that students and residents of Isla Vista should do their best to discourage friends from coming to visit.
Even with these measures, none of us could protect against the amount of people who came simply because they wanted to chase a party. Everywhere I went, I met people who didn’t know anyone here, who were lost and didn’t understand where they were going. It’s these people that definitely aided in exacerbating the situation.
I have found that some people from outside of the area do not care to treat our home with respect. They come in here, they aggressively lash out against police officers, they break things, and they start fights.
When all is said and done, they can simply pick up their luggage and leave, leaving the students to deal with the repercussions of the weekend.
Reading through my Facebook feed and through Internet comments, it’s clear to me that Santa Barbara locals are embarrassed. Some people seem to believe that Isla Vista is a terrible, disgusting place that should be locked up and left to rot on its own.
Many seem to believe that everything that happened was strictly the students’ faults. It’s difficult to have pride for our little town when we know what an embarrassment we are to the larger Santa Barbara area.
However, as a student who was stuck in the middle of the conflict, I can tell you the blame is not entirely in our hands, and there is a large line of miscommunication in what the majority of Isla Vista residents want from this town.
I have not yet met a student or Isla Vista resident who is not upset about the events that unfolded last night. While some frustrations may have existed about the intense security enforced by officials this weekend, many students also seemed to understand that the police are here to keep us safe.
Aggressive brutality against officers for trying to control a very out of control event is simply not okay. This is one area where many took what was suppose to be a fun event and turned it into the hell it became.
Despite the frustrations I feel towards out-of-towners, as well as the few residents that chose to act without the dignity I hoped all of us would have, I also feel that the extreme measures taken against students by officials was also over the top.
To be blocked off from my own home and forced to walk into a crowd of tear gas and rubber bullets left me feeling as though the campus police my tuition employs, and the officers brought in from neighboring counties, did not have my best interests at heart.
Instead of telling all students to go home, officers I encountered put up barricades and refused to discuss anything with students. For those who tried seeking refuge in my hallway or elsewhere in Isla Vista, we made it clear that this was not what we wanted of our weekend.
As a resident of Isla Vista and a Gaucho, we wanted to be safe, we wanted to return home, and instead had to face the repercussions of having thousands of people we did not invite destroying our town.
I understand the difficulty for many in accepting that Isla Vista is not a bad place, especially after events like these. Even I am starting to be thankful that I’m graduating this year and can move elsewhere.
However, not everything is so black and white. As a student, I have pride for my school. As a resident, I have pride for my little beach town. This has become most of our homes while we study here, and we have experienced a lot of growth while here.
To see our home ruined in the way it was last night simply is an embarrassment, and to suggest otherwise as some have done makes it apparent that others in the larger Santa Barbara community hold misconceptions about this town and about what we as students want.
I think in moving forward past these events, there needs to be a more open line of communication with Isla Vista residents and officials. Instead of cracking down in a way that will effectively change every aspect of Isla Vista, officials and residents need to work together to create effective movements that keep both the residents and student’s desires in mind.
As a student, I want to know officers are here with my best interests in mind. And as a resident, I want my fellow residents to respect that there must be rules to maintain order in this town, especially when things get out of hand.
It’s only through finding this balance between students interests and residential interests that we can move forward to making Isla Vista a better place to be.
We, as Gauchos or Isla Vista residents, have a responsibility to represent our home and university in a way the displays how great it truly is. For too long, we have all allowed things to worsen and have watched the reputation of our home become increasingly worse.
If this wasn’t a wake up call to work together to make a positive change here, I’m not sure what will be.
Alexa Shapiro, a former Noozhawk intern, is a senior at UCSB majoring in global studies and religious studies.