By the edhat staff
A viral video capturing a confrontation between a white woman and a Latino construction worker ignited a protest in Santa Barbara this week. The incident, which quickly spread on social media, drew hundreds of demonstrators to the corner of Garden and Micheltorena, shedding light on racial tensions within the predominantly white city.
Now three days after the protest, the Santa Barbara Police Department is referring the case to the County District Attorney and recommending a series of charges.
The video, filmed by construction worker Luis Cervantes on Saturday morning, shows Jeanne Umana arguing with him on private property at a construction site. Umana makes derogatory remarks, including calling Cervantes a “Tijuanan” and stating she is an American. The situation escalates further when Umana appears to slap or grab Cervantes’ phone.
The video also shows Umana stating she works for the police department after she was caught on camera walking into a private home under construction.
In response to the viral video, numerous individuals of all ages joined a protest in Umana’s downtown neighborhood. The demonstration, led by activist Edin Alex Enamorado, gained momentum as chants demanded Umana’s accountability. The protesters marched towards the downtown police station, where tensions remained high.
The next day, Santa Barbara Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Ethan Ragsdale confirmed they were investigating the incident. Ragsdale emphasized that the police did not condone Umana’s behavior, she did not work for the department, and acknowledged the emotions stirred within the community. The department expressed support for peaceful assembly and the right of individuals to voice their concerns.
On Wednesday, Ragsdale issued an update on the case stating detectives had been investigating the incident over the last several days.
“As a result of the investigation, Detectives referred the case to the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office for their consideration of the following criminal charges against Jeanne Terese Umana; Trespassing, Battery on a Person, and Hate Crime,” said Ragsdale.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Monday, Umana apologized for her inappropriate remarks and claimed she had lost control of her emotions. She said the incident began when she noticed a construction truck speeding down her residential street and parked illegally in the middle of the road. She said she approached the property where Cervantes worked to report the incident to a manager — not realizing it was an active construction site.
“And then when someone put the camera in my face, I think that’s when I lost my judgment. My judgment went very, very badly,” Umana said. “I am truly sorry that this got out of hand, and I regret making statements like that, because I said them in the heat of the moment. They were not measured, and whatever I might feel, I don’t have the right to take it out on anybody else. But unfortunately, I lost control.”
Protestors voiced that Santa Barbara, with a population that is nearly 71% white and 36% Latino, has a history of downplaying instances of racism. They hope that the attention garnered by this incident will bring about meaningful change and ensure that actions like Umana’s are not tolerated.
The District Attorney’s Office is expected to review the case and recommended charges by the police department.