A group of about 50 students and professors on Thursday took to the streets of Isla Vista, with masks on and signs in hand, to demand a police-free campus by fall 2021.
On UC Santa Barbara’s first day back in session, protesters marched a half-mile through the neighborhood, starting at Isla Vista Theater and ending at the Isla Vista Foot Patrol station at 6504 Trigo Road. The protesters, supporting the Cops Off Campus campaign, were equipped with wooden spoons, pots and pans, signs and blow horns to call attention to police funding through the University of California system.
“We have to mobilize this critical mass of people against UCPD,” said Pratik Raghu, a doctoral student at the university who helped organize the protest. “This was very much a coalition-based effort that is meant to bring together a wide range of people to pave way for social justice.”
Raghu said he hopes to replace police occupation with a range of transformative justices that meet the needs of the community, such as mediation circles, student aid and other programs that ensure that all students have access to resources.
At the end of the march, protesters stood in front of the Isla Vista Foot Patrol station banging spoons and pans, chanting, “We won’t take no, UCPD’s got to go!”
Graduate students and professors spoke to the group about the issues of policing on the UCSB campus.
“Police aren’t here to keep you safe; they’re here to control you, to keep you in line,” one graduate student speaker said.
The Cops Off Campus campaign began about two months ago, Raghu said, and stemmed from the outgrowth of responses to civil injustices that have been taking place across the country and, in particular, the police’s treatment of the black community.
The movement is led by black, indigenous and people of color community members, faculty, students, graduate students and other workers across the UC campuses.
“There are a lot of reasons why this is really critical. We’re in the middle of a pandemic where we’re seeing a lot of resources cut from the university,” a UCSB graduate student who helped organize the protest said. “To me, it’s really important at this juncture to make this call because we really need to prioritize the way that university funding is allocated.”
All 10 UC campuses mobilized on Thursday to call for an end to police occupation of campuses and support a commitment to cop-free campuses by 2021.
Two UCSB students said they heard about the protest through social media and came out to support the movement.
“I support the movement and think the UCs should absolutely abolish the police,” Olivia Lazarus said.
Her friend Julia Bickford echoed the sentiment: “It’s just the right thing to do.”
Campaign leaders plan to use a variety of tactics to continue the effort, Raghu said, adding that there will be a virtual protest Thursday night that will be broadcast statewide where participants can show off signs that they made.
There also will be a number of virtual teach-ins where community members can learn about the issues of policing on UC campuses.
“The harm and the cost of investing in policing is simply not measurable in the dollar amount. It is an investment in safety of the cheapest kind,” conveners from the UC campuses wrote in a statement of support. “A safety that, backed by the ever-present threat of lethal force, habituates us to the fact of steadily increasing inequality.”