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Deltopia Riot Prompts Memories of 2004 SLO Melee

Deltopia Riot Prompts Memories of 2004 SLO Melee

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - The disturbances in Isla Vista brings back memories for Cal Poly and the city of San Luis Obispo. Ten years ago, a traditional Mardi Gras celebration in downtown turned into a full-on riot near off-campus housing.

"It was very successful, a lot of people attended," said former Mayor Dave Romero of the old festivities. "As the years went by, it got to the point where it almost got out of hand. We had to have our full police staff on board."

Romero remembers the old Mardi Gras tradition in downtown all too well. In 2004, the event would change forever. Chaos broke out near off-campus housing by Cal Poly, and rioting students threw rocks and bottles at police officers and vandalized cars and a nearby business. The cleanup cost the city about half a million dollars.

"I thought, oh gosh, it's happened again," said Romero, thinking back on the day.

When he says "happened again", Romero is referring to the riot that broke out during the Poly Royal Festival in 1990, resulting in about 30 arrests. This time around, the city and police were quick to act to make sure Mardi Gras never happened again in San Luis Obispo.
Romero says there were two key actions that essentially ended the Mardi Gras festivities. One was when Cal Poly started punishing students for off-campus behavior. The second was when the police department increased the dollar amount of certain fines and citations for the days surrounding the Mardi Gras celebration, currently known as the special enforcement period.

"It took a few years, but we finally did not have the risk any longer," said Romero.

The mass chaos at Isla Vista over the weekend has shaken the southern Santa Barbara County community much like San Luis Obispo in 2004. Romero says efforts to end the party for good will take time.

"It's very difficult to get the word out to all the students that are visiting, that there is no more party here," said Romero. "It takes several years to do it."

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