Terror/Hate Crimes Continue in Santa Cruz

The news in 2008 was of bombs.

Firebombs were intentionally set on a porch and in a car belonging to two UC Santa Cruz researchers in separate incidents early Saturday in what police have classified as acts of domestic terrorism.

Police are calling one of the bombings an attempted homicide.

That case, because of a perceived terrorism association, was taken extremely seriously and turned over to the FBI and ATF. It sets an interesting comparison to crimes that have followed.

A year later Swastikas were displayed openly in the downtown area, but police protected it as a form of free speech.

“You can’t regulate what’s on the inside of somebody else’s house,” said police spokesman….

The man apparently rotates the swastika flags with other, less controversial banners, and Friend said police started receiving complaints of Nazi flags about a month ago. Over the weekend the resident hung America’s Old Glory and Britain’s Union Jack under two Nazi flags. Monday, he hung a modern German government flag between the two flags of the Third Reich.

Of course the police spokesman is wrong. There are many regulations that affect what is on the inside of someone else’s house.

But I can give him the benefit of the usual free speech argument, which the article mentions. It became clear early in 2011 that the residents of the California beach town were in fact facing a serious and persistent test of free speech.

The question of hateful speech and expression spread to the high school. Students who decided to openly identify themselves with white supremacy and swastikas were suspended.

Students at a Santa Cruz County high school have been suspended for suspected scrawling of racist graffiti and joining together in a white supremacy gesture while the senior class picture was being taken, school officials said Friday.

This was treated as a relatively isolated and local affair, but it showed the problem of expression was not isolated to a single resident’s window. Shortly before this incident and the suspension, the University had quietly reported a similar crime.

Campus officials discovered graffiti on March 15 in a men’s restroom in Porter College that included swastikas and the message, “Blood will be shed at UCSC 4/20/11.”

Now, at the end of July, the swastikas have come out again. This time the possible hate speech was coupled with significant property damage, not far from the high school and the University.

Vandals damaged about 50 vehicles—slashing tires and etching swastikas into the paint—on the western side of the city overnight, Santa Cruz police reported.

Most of the vandalism happened on and around Almar Avenue, all between 11 p.m. Friday and 1 a.m. Saturday, according to Santa Cruz police spokesman….

The reaction to the swastikas this month seems similar to the reaction ten years ago. In 2001 the University Student Rabbi downplayed the information conveyed by the symbol.

“This was probably the act of a 15-year-old and I would hate for it to be blown out of proportion,” he added.

Even more to the point, Santa Cruz has been mentioned in the “Save the Swastika” movement, which is trying to reclaim the symbol’s meaning. It posts images of swastika body scars, tattoos, clothing, etc..

There is a problem, obviously, for anyone who hopes to paint a nicer image or downplay significance of the symbol. The swastika clearly continues to be used alongside destructive and criminal activity (not to mention that it still is very much associated with genocide). The police say they already consider the latest vandalism a possible hate crime. Compared with the 2008 attempted bombings I wonder if attacks bearing swastikas will be at some point also be considered a form of domestic terrorism. There also could be irony here. The police may be able to redirect immigration control resources from larger/federal agencies and use it protect residents from the greater threat domestic threat — white supremacy-logo criminals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.