Students witness riot at Deltopia Spring Break party

Kelly Klein

Thousands of college students and many Redwood students flock to UC Santa Barbara in Isla Vista every April for the annual Spring Break party, Deltopia. This year, however, the party got out of control when a massive riot broke out among the party-goers.

According to a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office press release, over 100 arrests occurred and 44 visits to the local hospital were made Saturday night after the party transformed into a riot, allegedly after campus police were assailed by rowdy party-goers for arresting a suspect on the grounds of assault.

Allegedly, a campus police officer was hit in the back of the head by a backpack filled with liquor, ultimately leading to the riot. This was soon followed with tear-gas, smoke bombs, and rubber bullets being shot into the uncontrollable crowd.

Senior Morgan Tardy witnessed the riots on Del Playa, although she was not actively involved in the rioting. Tardy did, however, suffer the effects of the tear gas and two of her friends were shot with rubber bullets.

“I can still feel the effect of the tear gas,” Tardy said. “My face felt like it was melting during the riots, but now it feels like I have the symptoms of strep throat.”

Taylor Leitz, a freshman at Santa Barbara City College and Redwood graduate, said that although she wasn’t involved in the riots, she witnessed the entire situation.

“It honestly sounded like a war zone outside,” Leitz said. “As soon as we got close enough to the riots, I felt the tear gas so I took my roommate and we just walked home.”

Deltopia was formed as a UCSB tradition, but, in recent years, the party has morphed into the colossal party that nearly 15,000 people attend today.

According to Redwood graduate Jenny Fant, UCSB sophomore, the party became uncontrollable after the police arrested the student who had thrown the backpack.

“That riled everyone else up, and from that incident, everything snowballed,” Fant said. “The more the police tried to resist the rioting, the more rioting would happen.”
Leitz also said that the riots only got worse when people starting provoking the police by throwing bricks, rocks, bottles, and whatever they could find.

“The police were trying to protect the residents of Isla Vista because there are so many children who live here too, which is unfortunate,” Leitz said. “I think the police were justified—maybe not with the smoke bombs and rubber bullets—but things were getting out of hand.”

Tardy said that she thought the police were in the right to use aggression towards the beginning of the rioting, but not when things began to calm down.

“When it was at the point where people in the streets were trying to get home and the police were still shooting the rubber bullets and throwing the smoke bombs, it was totally excessive,” Tardy said.

According to Leitz, this type of behavior is not typical of the residents of Isla Vista, and most of the riots had happened due to those visiting the town.

“It was honestly not what I expected when I left my house that night,” Leitz said. “It was really scary. I wasn’t even on the main street when the SWAT teams were pushing people out of the way.”

Senior Megan Rollo, who will be attending Santa Barbara City College next year, was also at Deltopia on Saturday night, although she was not actively present on the rioting scene.

Rollo also said that most of the rioting had come from the people who weren’t from the area.

“The disrespect that happened in Isla Vista this weekend was mostly created by people who live out of town,” Rollo said. “They (the police) were just trying to protect the town which makes me so angry and confused as to why people decided to rebel against them when they were just doing their jobs.”

While Fant said that she recognized that there might have been some residents involved in the rioting, she said that the people who don’t have any investment in the area cause most of the problems because they don’t see it as someone’s home.

“The out-of-towners have a lot less respect for our city, so they tend to have more drastic and irrational actions,” Fant said. “Unlike us, they don’t face any of the repercussions.”

Fant said that what upset her and her peers the most was that events such as these taint the public perspective of the locals and UCSB.

“We love our school, the beach, the party aspect, and how it’s a top research university,” Fant said. “It’s unfortunate that when these things happen it’s us as UCSB students who are reflected and not the people who instigated it.”

According to Rollo, although what happened was shocking, the riots from Deltopia haven’t affected her decision about attending SBCC next year.

“It hasn’t changed my mind whatsoever about going to SBCC because I know that Isla Vista isn’t typically like that,” Rollo said. “Yes, the town is known for partying, but what college isn’t?”