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City Hall Arson Sentinel editorial & commentary

While City authorities view the charred wing of City Hall from the April 1st fire, they are busy trying to blame the fire on their most vocal critics ---- homeless people and their advocates.
NOTE TO READER: When I was cited and later arrested for using sidewalk chalk on a sidewalk, I was accused of vandalism. Get real! I know what vandalism is, and I am opposed to it. The City is facing $400,000 worth of fire damage, the need to provide office space for all the employees in that wing of City Hall, and the fear that the arsonist may strike again. However, as my chalking conviction shows, the City of Santa Cruz is far from "extremely tolerant" as the Sentinel editorial below suggests.

Homeless people are harassed, threatened, cited, arrested, and prosecuted for the "crimes" of sitting on a sidewalk, looking at their reflection in the glass of a Pacific Ave. business, for sleeping at night, for covering up with a blanket to keep warm, and for holding a sign after dark saying "Homeless, Anything Helps, God Bless!"

This in a city which has 160 shelter spaces to serve an estimated homeless population of 1500 to 2000. So who is "demented" here?

I have no idea who burned City Hall or what their motivations were. I do know that the City of Santa Cruz has been engaged in underhanded, cruel, abusive, and intolerant treatment of the poor and homeless while promoting a liberal, progressive veneer that is akin to cosmetics and a face-lift on Frankenstein's monster. Was Santa Cruz tolerant when it arrested Jason Paschal, a homeless black man, and jailed him this week for criminal possession of a milk crate? Was Mayor Emily Reilly "compassionate" when she ordered "No Parking 5AM -7AM 7 days a week" signs be installed in the Harvey West Industrial Park in order to criminalize homeless people sleeping in their vehicles? Is the Council being tolerant in its latest effort to privatize the on-street parking citywide where they can sell us back the parking areas we now use for free?

As for the speculation by the Sentinel over who may have committed the arson--- they suggest "homeless people" "street activists angered by the downtown ordinances" "anti-government" types, "anti-war" and "pro-war" types. Only the last entry suggested someone other than the homeless and their advocates and this is potentially libelous. It could have been a disgruntled ex-employee as it was the personnel office. It could have been the teenage kids of police officers who know nothing will happen to them no matter what damage they do. It could have been a City Councilmember who wanted to blame the vocal critics of the council's actions.

We at HUFF have been trying to expose the vicious and criminal acts of the City Council and the SCPD for years and bring them to the light of justice. These written attacks smearing homeless people and their advocates strikes me as very self-serving since the City knows full well it has created many enemies along the way with no help from us. ---- Becky Johnson

Santa Cruz Sentinel editorial

April 3, 2003

Local attacks an outrage


Latest vandalism shows that even an extremely tolerant city can be targeted by demented criminals trying to make some obscure point.

It took an attack on Santa Cruz City Hall to knock the war in Iraq off the top spot on the Sentinelís front page Wednesday. Thatís saying something, since the war took a decided turn, with allied forces pressing in toward Baghdad as resistance began to crumble. In addition, Special Forces made a dramatic, thrilling rescue of a prisoner of war, 19-year-old Jessica Lynch.

It was one of those news days, with a plane temporarily quarantined at San Jose International Airport in the ongoing scare over the mysterious respiratory ailment, SARS.

Dramatic as all this news was, the brazen early-morning arsons at City Hall and State Parks headquarters were stunners.

It wasnít that vandalism doesnít occur all the time. It does.

And it wasnít the scope of the damage to City Hall, estimated at $400,000. Insurance probably will pay most of the bills.

No, it was that in a city that is probably one of the most tolerant in the nation for any and all viewpoints, lifestyles, aberrant behaviors and social causes, that some demented person or persons felt it necessary to take such an action to make a point.

No one as yet has stepped forward to take responsibility for the arson, and we doubt if anyone will.

Whatever point that might be made would probably be lost in the outrage over the nasty and pointless actions.

This attack was only the latest in a puzzling, disheartening series of similar vandalisms.

City Hall was hit by vandals in 1997, then by the so-called "hosers" in 2001, who soaked offices and businesses around town ó including the Sentinel ó in their attacks. The hosing culprits have never been apprehended. In the 1997 attack, a homeless activist was arrested and charged with vandalism, but charges were later dropped.

The State Parks office on Ocean Street suffered only minimal damage in Tuesday morningís arson. The office was hit in 2001 by the hosers as well, suffering more damage than City Hall in that attack. Even the bakery business owned by current Santa Cruz Mayor Emily Reilly was targeted.

Many theories have been advanced as to who is behind the attacks: the homeless who have lost their rights to stay indefinitely at state campgrounds; street activists angered by downtown regulations; anti-government types; pro-war; antiwar.

Who knows?

What is odd is that these attacks are occurring in this city, which is hardly a symbol of American corporate power or a government out of touch with the people.

Indeed, comments by City Council members showed the reluctance of local leaders to express anger or call for greater security.

Instead, several opined on "psychological sources" that might drive someone to strike out, and compassion for those driven to commit such acts.

Weíd like to hear from the liberal leadership that runs Santa Cruz that enough is enough. Even in a city where tolerance apparently knows no bounds, criminal behavior that has a big impact on hard-working people will not be tolerated.

Letís hear some outrage and some anger. These acts of vandalism may not be a form of terrorism, but someone could have been seriously hurt in the latest attack and employees are scared and disheartened by the apparent ease with which vandals can strike.

And letís hope the criminals who are behind these attacks done in the darkness are exposed to the light of justice.


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Becky I thought you made some pretty good points, particularly about the lack of shelter space. And I'm especially glad that you've taken a stand on the fire-bombing, personally I feel that the feeble-minded attack does nothing more than create miserable working conditions for people with gloriless city jobs. I urge all activists to take a stand on this firebombing, taking no stand at all, frankly I find quite cowardly and hypocritical.

I read the Sentinel opinion practically every day, and practically every day it pisses me off in some way or another. (a few notable exceptions include their support for naming Pajaro High, Caesar Chavez High, the support they've shown for various charitable groups, and environmental concerns) Especially the pathetic war support editorials of late. But I agree with their opinion that people, especially activists should express outrage. But only if in fact they feel that this was wrong, if they don't they should say so and why. I certainly don't think that there was anything even remotely libelous in their opinion. Surely you've read posts on this board from people like 'passerby', 'loocefer', 'attack' and others. That coupled with the fact that the targets of the attack are the same as before, it's not much of a stretch to speculate that this was a deranged person who used political motivation to justify it.
It seems to me that people who are sick of gab and want to do something 'meaningful' ought to start with smashing their T.V. and then maybe move on to not buying gas (pretty ironic that oil companies made money of this attack), not paying taxes, getting rid of everything they own that is plastic and not buying any more, quit any job they have that supports or has financial interests in the corporate structure, and so on, long before they start fucking with someone elses life.

Libel is something HUFF knows a lot about

Becky, it's funny that you are so sensitive about an oblique reference to a large group of people, claiming that it is libel. I've seen much of the propoganga that HUFF's three members hand out on the street, and it contains much more true libel than anything the Sentinel prints. I've seen you lob specific charges at people and the council that are patently false or misleading. Yet someone has the gall to challenge your little group and you get so shocked! If you can't take it, don't dish it out.

The fact is, if it was a homeless person or homeless activist, they probably aren't very mentally competent (a rational person would not have done this act, I think we all can agree). I think you and Robert need to start thinking about what YOU do to the homeless in this area, getting them riled up and angry at "the man", yet never really supporting them when they need the help. Maybe I'd feel less inclined to believe that the two of you are only out for your own satisfaction of being "crusaders" if I saw that you, oh I don't know, were letting homeless people sleep in your houses, feeding them from your own table, providing case-management and support throughout the transitional period that often includes mental health and drug rehabilitation assistance. No, you just get people pissed off and angry, but don't actually do anything concrete to help homeless people, unless you consider wearing a bathrobe and disrupting city council meetings concrete help.

THink about your own actions in this, guys. You are not entireley blameless, although you seem to believe that the words you preach don't apply to you.

Downtown Santa Cruz is Downtown Kabul is Downtown Baghdad

Kabul Around the Corner

"I come as a thief in the night, my sword drawn in hand, and as the thief that I am, I say: Give me your purse, give it to me, rogue, or I'll cut your throat! I say give it to the beggars, to the thieves, to the whores, to the pickpockets that are flesh of your flesh and that are quite equal to you, those who are ready to die of hunger in pestilential prisons and filthy dungeons have everything in common, otherwise the scourge of God will cut down all that you have in order to putrefy it and consume it."
-- Abiezer Coppe, 17th century England

The fire of anti-aircraft guns illuminates the Kabul night, and yet the war did not erupt either today or on September 11, 2001, the day of the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York and a good part of the Pentagon. This war did not erupt in Afghanistan for the sole, valid reason that it had already erupted some time ago; for years, the entire world has lived in a state of permanent war.

We did not want to see how close Rwanda and Kosovo, Somalia and Bosnia, Algeria and Macedonia were to us. But the Boeings of September 11 have brought Jalalabad, Baghdad and Jericho into the hearts of our cities. Therefore, no one can any longer ignore the planetary gangrene that shows no signs of coming to an end, the chosen heir of modernity, of the technological era.

The industrial system has poisoned the earth, rendering it sterile; the opening of global markets has sent the peasant world into ruin; industrial restructuring has dismantled the old productive apparati; strategic and geopolitical necessities determined by the control of resources have unleashed unending conflicts capital, heavy with the immense possibilities that technology is providing to it, has broken up every possibility for autonomy, every past form of community in a large portion of the globe. At our latitudes, this same process has brought forth the precariousness that we have been tasting for the past few years, the abandonment of the old certainties and guarantees to which we were accustomed. Distorting the conditions of life for the exploited, capital has removed practical knowledge, the autonomous capacity to create one's existence for oneself. Where it still survives, the means of subsistence are mere appendages of a technological system that none of the exploited can understand or dream of controlling: no one knows what to do anymore; no one knows how to do anything. Goodbye, then, to every common feeling of the poor, to all collective identification, goodbye to the dream of appropriating this world and driving out its masters.

This is how, over the last twenty years, the planet has increasingly come to resemble a refugee camp. One runs from conflict or from a wasteland, from poverty or from dictatorship; one runs from a world one no longer recognizes. The old ways of life, of being together, have vanished irremediably, and nothing can be seen on the horizon. All that is left is hatred and fear, with more accumulating every day, and it is having difficulty finding an objective, an enemy to fight. This is why whether hidden or declared civil war has already broken out, everywhere.

To each their own then, in this macabre exhibition that celebrates the decomposition of an entire planet. Led by their masters, the exploited Yugoslavs' have slaughtered each other for years, convinced that their next-door neighbors were their enemies. The poor of Somalia and Rwanda have not acted so very differently.

Now the huge powder keg of the Islamic world is exploding. The poor have every intention and utter determination to call in accounts for years of suffering. Deprived of every concrete social connection apart from precariousness and fear most superimpose the words of the only common feeling that is proposed to them onto their rage, that of religion. The identification of a collective enemy causes fraternization beyond every boundary and every division; the epic poetry of the struggle against Evil fills History with meaning it speaks of a future promise and gives a meaning to past tribulations. This is why they wage war against the entire western world and not, instead, against those specifically responsible for their oppression: the masters and governors of the east and the west.

When you read these lines, we don't know what will be happening in Afghanistan or Iraq, we don't know what will be happening in Palestine. The bombs over Kabul precipitate events, increasingly channeling revolt in the Islamic world into the narrow path of religious war. The bombs over Kabul don't just wreak havoc on Afghani civilians, nor do they only cause further surges of refugees, nor do they just set the Middle East on fire: the bombs over Kabul also fall on our heads, finally giving meaning to our fear of the future, putting order into the social precariousness of these times. The hypocritical "anti-terrorist" rhetoric of the western powers terrorizes us and, at the same time, gives a name to our terror; it bestows on us a new enemy against whom we can fight: the exploited of the Islamic world, who are in Afghanistan and in Italy and America, instead of capitalist society, as was beginning to emerge in social conflicts. Therefore, it is not a collision between civilizations that is being fought. It is the realization of the civilization of capital, its ripest fruit putrefaction, death, war between the poor.

Not a single word of peace makes sense anymore; no mediation is possible when the desperation of the poor breaks through the doors of a world that is falling to pieces. All that we can oppose to the bombs over Kabul is class attack: freeing the hatred that smolders and hurling it against those responsible for our oppression and that of all of the poor of the world. Identifying the common enemy with precision the masters, the rulers, the technological and productive network is the first concrete form of solidarity toward the bombed, toward the refugees. Attacking this enemy is the only message of fraternity that we can send to the exploited of the world, the only tool that we have for transforming the war between the poor that is about to set the world on fire into a war of liberation from exploitation and from authority.

-- Strangers Everywhere, Italy


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