Eight Activists Arrested While Protesting San Marcos Foothills Development
By edhat staff
Eight local activists were arrested during a "sit-in" to prevent the construction of the San Marcos Foothills.
The event started on Wednesday afternoon and continued into Thursday at the end of Via Gaitero off Highway 154 near the "Bridge to Nowhere."
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office reported eight people were arrested and an additional person was cited.
The San Marcos Foothills Preserve is a protected area of 200 acres between Santa Barbara and Goleta in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The Save San Marcos Foothills nonprofit has been attempting to purchase a parcel of undeveloped open space adjacent to the preserve that's scheduled to have eight homes built on the West Mesa.
Videos posted online showed approximately 20-30 people standing near the gate holding signs, some singing indigenous chants stating they are protecting native land and animals. Activists remained in the area overnight and into Thursday morning.
"Deputies became aware of the protest around 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24, 2021, when contractors called to report a potential for conflict with the protesters at a construction site on the north end of Via Gaitero. Deputies monitored the area overnight," the Sheriff's Office said in a statement. "This morning, as construction equipment arrived, several people prevented the contractors from accessing private property at the north end of Via Gaitero."
The Sheriff's Office stated protesters "willfully obstructed the free movement of the contractors, who were in possession of a valid permit to access and work on the property."
A video posted on social media showed two bulldozers parked near several Sheriff's vehicles facing the protestors. Sheriff Sgt. Calderon introduced himself to the crowd and stated he appreciated what everyone was doing but the crew behind him had a job to do and they will be bringing equipment through the area. He asked for voluntary compliance for the group to move out of the way or else people will be arrested and booked at the Santa Barbara County Jail.
Six women and two men were arrested on the scene and transported to the County Main Jail at 7:19 a.m. All were booked for willfully obstructing the free movement of any person, a misdemeanor violation. A man received the same citation for using a V-arm tube to chain himself to a gate post at the entrance to the property.
"No force other than handcuffing was used to effect the arrests, and no protesters or deputies were injured during the incident," the Sheriff's Office states. "After the booking process, each arrestee was issued a citation and released from jail upon their promise to appear in court."
Deputies remained on scene until shortly after noon Thursday, when the contractor and protesters arrived at an agreement and law enforcement was no longer needed to access the property, said the Sheriff's Office.
An Instagram account titled "savethesanmarcosfoothills" stated they are asking the developers of the project to pause the construction and give the community more time to raise money to purchase the foothills.
The Chadmar Group, developers of the project, purchased the 350 acres of foothills in 2005 with the intent of donating 300 acres to the county. This current project would be 25 acres.
[Ed Note: This article has been updated with information from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office]