Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Antiwar protest held at UCSB


Hundreds of chanting protesters marched through the center of UC Santa Barbara’s campus and gathered around Corwin Pavilion on Tuesday afternoon to express their vehement opposition to the war in Iraq and the university’s involvement with military programs.
Inside the building, researchers with the university’s Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies (ICB) interacted with Army representatives during the first session of a two-day gathering entitled “ICB Army-Industry Collaborative Conference.”

In addition to decrying the war as senseless and unjustified, protesters took issue with the five-year, $50 million ICB program funded by the Army, holding signs reading, “Regime change begins at home” and “UCSB is an Army subsidiary.”
“At this moment, professors are researching technology to use in the war in Iraq,” one protestor yelled.
Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas said the ICB program is in its fifth year and focuses on improving the lives of soldiers, by designing lighter uniforms and equipment, improving medical technology, and other ventures. He said the university is not involved in weaponry research.
Despite protesters banging on windows and doors, Lucas said the conference continued as planned.
“Protest is a way of life on campus,” he said. “As long as it’s peaceful and property isn’t being damaged and no one is being threatened with bodily harm, then it’s fine.”
Several professors involved with the ICB conference declined to comment on the protest, but did engage in discussions with several marchers at the fringe of the crowd.
Although some protesters focused solely on UCSB’s involvement with the military through the ICB program, many chose simply to voice their opposition to the war in Iraq in general.
“We are and have been f---ing up that country,” said Dave Hassan, an Iraq veteran and UCSB physics student who helped organize the protest. “It’s time to stop.”
Hassan joined the Marines in 2002 and deployed to Iraq as an Arabic translator in 2005. He said he served with intelligence operations, providing information about potential targets.
“I got to hear out of the mouths of the Iraqi people what happens when we drop bombs,” he said. “Families, women and children die every time we drop bombs. … All that I saw I was doing was f---ing killing people.”
After being denied contentious objector status, Hassan was honorably discharged from the Marines in May 2007 and has since become involved in organizing antiwar efforts.
“Every night when I go to sleep, I think about all the humans I am responsible for killing,” he said. “I saw that I couldn’t just live my life and go to school, so I started organizing.”
Stephen Campbell, a graduate student studying history, climbed up on a balcony overlooking the throng of marchers during an open-microphone session at the beginning of the protest and emphatically declared his opposition to the war.
“I am sick and tired of seeing how this war has destroyed the potential of this American country,” he said. “…I am sick and tired of hearing that the surge is working because the mainstream media reports that it’s working.”
Even as others came forward to speak out against a military presence in Iraq, a small group on the edge of the larger crowd held signs declaring support for the military and the invasion of Iraq.
“We wanted to show our support for the troops and the war,” said Jerad Ferguson, president of College Republicans. “We as Americans owe it to the Iraqis to establish a democracy. … If you pull out, Al Qaeda and Iraq will rebuild to pre-surge levels. It will basically be a breeding ground for terrorists.”
After gathering at the end of Pardall Road at noon and listening to several speakers, the protesters headed onto campus and made their way to Corwin Pavilion, sweeping aside a rope barricade set up by authorities.
As they flooded into a tented area near the building, several marchers tossed trays of food set out for conference participants to the floor, stood on tables, and scrawled anti-war messages on the tent and ground. Others helped clean up spilled food and stack chairs several minutes later.
About thirty minutes after the throng of marchers pooled around the south edge of the building, a flurry of shouts and screams came from the center of the group, where police were attempting to take several protesters into custody.
Amid yelling students and participants, officers ultimately wrangled two men from the crowd and into the backseats of two squad cars. A crowd immediately formed a ring around both and sat down, effectively blocking the exit routes.
Officers armed with batons, and some with riot helmets, circled one squad car, pulled the detainee out and transferred him to another car, which sped away before protesters could reach it.
After attempting a similar move with the other detainee, which was unsuccessful, authorities blocked off access to the squad car and seemed content to wait out the crowd. Eventually, the group of activists returned to Corwin Pavilion after the arrested man waved them off.
Authorities said the two men were taken into custody for allegedly resisting and delaying a peace officer. Officer Matt Bowman, a spokesman for the UC Police Department, said the two men were cited and released from the station, declining to comment further.
Despite that incident, Officer Bowman said the protest went smoothly from a law enforcement perspective.
“We didn’t have any medical calls, no one was injured, and we didn’t have any reports of theft,” he said. “Other than some minor damage, it was a pretty peaceful protest.”
As a smaller contingent of protesters continued to bang on the windows and doors of Corwin Pavilion into the afternoon, others gathered to chant and sing songs.
In the lobby of the University Center, a smaller group ringed an entrance to the Corwin Pavilion, engaging in conversations with researchers as they left the conference. Many said they plan to return to Corwin Pavilion on Wednesday to continue their protest.


Paul said...

After seeing this lame spectacle I am no longer going to vote for my tax dollars going to either the Univeristy or the Police. I saw a Ghetto Bird flying above the University for something like 4 hours. Just for a bunch of rich kids walking around with signs? Please. Santa Barbara County: please do not beg us for more money for your pretty little helicopters. UCSB students: please do not ask us for more money so you can smoke pot and protest.

David said...

I see Paul was too synical to see that this action was an effective hinderance of an institution for tyrants hell bent on their completely anti-communal (read: genocidal) Project For A New American Century.

Keep up the good work and STAND UP against the spread of the genetic and conditioned diseases of personal weakness which cause such travesty.