By Serran Soledad
On Thursday morning, eight protesters were arrested for a sit-in at the San Marcos Foothills, a piece of land in Santa Barbara, CA once inhabited by the native Chumash tribe. The action was held as a protest of luxury homes set for development on the land by the Chadmar Group, a Santa Monica-based multi-million dollar real estate agency.
The action was initially called for by Save The San Marcos Foot Hills, a non-profit raising funds to purchase and preserve the land, who set out to continue their campaign of holding passive protests. A separate group of protesters comprised of Chumash natives and members of Seeds To Forest Defense initiated the actual sit-in, blocking bulldozers from being able to dig on the site.
Protesters blocking construction vehicles, including one who chained herself to a fence, were eventually arrested and charged with “Obstructing an entrance to a public space.” Video of the arrests shows Santa Barbara sheriffs cuffing one protester and bending her arms behind her back as they pulled her from the ground. “You’re hurting me!” she said, before being put into a sheriff’s van. Protesters were taken to the county jail for processing, and released later that day—some of whom returned to the site after being released.
One of the arrested protesters told Tribune after being released from jail, “The deputy grabbed me by the hood of my sweater and handcuffed me. We were not read our rights and they had us sit in a holding cell for 2 hours. They were making jokes about us on the way there. I identified one of the officers, his name was Munoz, he joked saying ‘today was a good day.'”
The arrests did little to deter protesters, with many sticking around into the night. Speeches and testimonies were given, and native songs were sung as people stood in a circle. “I saw my cousin in shackles, I never thought in my life that would happen,” said young Chumash man.
Santa Barbara Sheriffs set up a blockade on the nearby 101 freeway to halt any potential for transportation of supplies and to stop new protesters from joining the crowd. Law enforcement eventually left the site along with the bulldozers.
No further arrests were made, and plans for continued protests and sit-ins are set for the coming days.
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