In groups ranging from 100 to 500, demonstrators have marched through Santa Barbara streets in different rallies since before Thanksgiving. The gatherings have been vocal, but non violent.
Extra police have been called in at night and on weekends to monitor the groups and prevent them from some actions, including blocking the freeway. At times, extra California Highway Patrol officers, and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputies are called in or alerted to be on “stand by.”
Those involved have complied with orders to stay off the freeway, which is a protest move that has occurred in Los Angeles and led to arrests.
The gatherings in Santa Barbara have involved large marches in the middle of streets, speeches at the courthouse and City Hall and calls for solidarity with those who are raising issues about police relations in New York and Ferguson, Missouri after controversial deaths involving black men.
Police enforcement has been measured, and one resident said it has allowed for a wide area for free speech expression without a confrontation. That includes in the middle of downtown streets, or the steps of City Hall. Most of those attending are young people.
“It’s all new and this is the beginning. Until they (police) see things getting out of hand they are there to prevent it, and stop it, better than not enough officers this early in the game,” said resident Therese Lord.
“People need to vent it’s a serious matter and people need to vent,” said Hollis French while visiting Santa Barbara from Alaska.
Blocking freeway lanes or downtown streets was viewed as excessive to one resident.
“I am not sure if that’s a place to make a point, or to make a positive point. To me it is a turnoff,” said resident Tom Williams. He also said he does not see the same race issues in Santa Barbara as others have brought up in larger cities such as New York or Los Angeles.
Has it gone too far?
“Probably not yet. There’s always a tipping point when you have to maintain order but I don’t think we are there yet. People are frustrated,” said French.
Overtime costs have not been released by the police department, but on many occasions, extra officers have been assigned to work additional shifts when demonstrations are held.
One resident said “what could be better” than to see free speech in this form, as long as it is peaceful.