[Hpn] SJ Mercury News AGAIN implicates homeless activists in wave of vandalism

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Fri, 22 Jun 2001 14:54:56 -0700

I'd like to invite list members to contact the Mercury News to confront them
for casting suspicion on Santa Cruz homeless allies in these yet-unsolved
office floods. I don't think Jay Harris would have stood still for letting
this kind of speculative spin pass for hard news -- maybe that's another
reason why he recently jumped ship there.

as for me, I prefer fire to water -- MUCH cleaner and more effective.



Costly repairs begin for offices after vandals hose 7 buildings

Published Friday, June 22, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News

Mercury News 

The Vandals of old carried swords as they pillaged and looted their way
boldly across Europe and North Africa. The vandals of Santa Cruz carry
garden hoses as they skulk through downtown under cover of darkness.

So far these hose vandals have attacked seven sites since June 4, all but
one related to government or the courts. Their method has been unvarying:
attach a hose to an outdoor garden tap; run the other end through a broken
window, a mail slot or, in one case, between a pair of glass doors; turn on
the tap and flee. Damage done to the buildings is in the hundreds of
thousands of dollars.

And the locals are getting pretty annoyed.

The police lieutenant in charge of the investigation uses words like
``cowardly'' and ``brainless.'' An attorney whose offices were flooded
lapses into obscenity because of the damage and inconvenience.

A woman who worked at Borders Books & Music when the chain store was under
attack last year for not being local calls what the vandals are doing ``a
whole new level of destructive behavior.''

Borders was flooded in August when a valve on the second floor was opened.
No clear connection was ever made between that vandalism and the
anti-Borders movement.

Police are frustrated, if not totally baffled, by the recent crimes. ``I
don't know what to tell you,'' Lt. Joe Haebe said. ``Nobody's stepped
forward yet to claim responsibility for it. It's a person or persons who
just have total contempt for the property of others. And it's not a
cookie-cutter type of crime that points to one specific group.''

`Not totally random'

Mike Rotkin thinks it looks like a protest. Rotkin, a former mayor and city
councilman who teaches in the community studies field program at the
University of California-Santa Cruz, said, ``It's not totally random. ...
They're all related'' by their appearance of attacking the system. ``If
Costco had an office, I'm sure they'd fill that with water, too.''

Community studies at UCSC is a sort of major in public activism. But if the
hose vandals took his class, Rotkin said, ``they weren't paying attention.
We try really hard to get our students to think strategically and move them
away from ineffective forms of moral outrage.''

Historically, he said, both the left and right political wings have been
``plagued with individuals who decide to take action by the deed.'' Often,
he said, they are younger people excited by an issue, they don't think about
the consequences and their actions backfire.

In the 1960s, for example, ``people threw rocks through the windows of
libraries to protest the war in Vietnam, which seems, in retrospect,
insane,'' Rotkin said, because it upset liberals who ``were on your side.''

Not everyone agrees that the vandals are trying to make a statement. ``At
first I thought it was a group, a disgruntled group,'' said Tom O'Rourke, a
partner in the insurance firm of Battistini & Canfield, which was one of the
first hit and which remains the only ``civilian'' victim.

``But we're not a government agency. We're a locally owned, independent
business. Nobody has an ax to grind with an insurance agency. We're a
disinterested observer. So then I thought, maybe wanton vandalism by kids. I
really don't know.''

``I really don't know,'' echoed attorney Jerry Christensen. As a partner in
Biggam, Christensen & Minsloff, the law firm that holds the public defender
contract with Santa Cruz County, he figures he's one of the good guys. His
firm was hit Saturday night and is still being cleaned up.

It was a surprise

``I'm really shocked by this,'' he said. ``We're really good about
dialoguing with people, with clients, with people with concerns. We've
represented numerous people with causes, represented them diligently. We try
to stand up for what we believe in.

``I mean, hell, we took Ron Ruiz, himself, to court'' when Ruiz was district
attorney. ``We're not wimping around over here.''

Nevertheless for the last few days they've been sloshing around. The water
may have run for 12 hours before attorney Kristine Burke went to work Sunday
morning and found a hose stuck through a broken window.

``I would hope that it's some 12-year-old, really immature person who's
doing it for fun,'' said Christensen. ``But I don't think that's the case.''

Burke was unable to turn the water off because the vandals had broken off
the tap handle. Christensen had to bring a pair of pliers. ``This was a
little extra `Ha-ha!' or `Gotcha!' or whatever,'' he said. ``More malice.''

At district headquarters for California State Parks, which was hit the night
of June 6, vandals deployed a hose on the top floor so the water soaked
through to the first floor. At the height of the summer tourist season,
parks employees had to disperse, and the public was left with only a
single-line phone over which to call for information.

Dave Vincent, the district superintendent, said he, too, has no idea who
might have done it. ``Could be anything: kids, somebody with a grudge, a
whole range of things.''

Rotkin pointed out that, with nobody coming forward, the message, if there
is one, is obscured, and the impact on the public is minimal.

``It's certainly not going to have its intended impact -- `Oh, because of
this the State Parks is going to change its policy about people staying
there for 30 days.' It's not a very strategic activity.''

The first hose attacks occurred June 4, a few days after three homeless
activists received a split decision in a long-running court battle over
their right to stage a ``teach-in'' at City Hall. But none of them has
spoken out on the attacks. And Frances Markovic, a homeless sympathizer,
doesn't believe that activists had anything to do with them.

``The people that I know, they're speak-out people,'' she said, ``not
clandestine, do-sneaky-stuff people.

``If they ever find'' the vandals, ``they're going to be total strangers to
me, I'm sure.''

Contact David L. Beck at dbeck@sjmercury.com or at (831) 423-0960.

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