Local leaders: Race relations must improve | December 19, 2008 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |


Mountain View Voice

News - December 19, 2008

Local leaders: Race relations must improve

Challenge Team members say recent incident shows need for more dialogue

by Casey Weiss

A week after police arrested three Mountain View High School students for alleged hate crimes, community leaders said the incident is a wake-up call on the need to discuss issues of race and tolerance.

The suspects, all white males ages 14 and 15, allegedly shouted racial slurs and threatened to kill four Latino 11-year-olds as the boys walked home from Graham Middle School on Dec. 5. They eventually ran out of the home they were in, police said, and chased the boys down the 1200 block of Mercy Street while brandishing a "replica firearm."

Police arrested the teens that same day on charges of hate crimes, criminal threats, brandishing a replica firearm and conspiracy to commit a felony.

Last Thursday, members of the Challenge Team, a consortium of local leaders which meets once a month to discuss issues facing at-risk students, called for a community-wide response in order to explore the roots of racism in the city.

"The reason I am adamant about doing something as a community to address this issue is I feel hatred is not hereditary. It is an acquired disease, and unless there is early detection and intervention it will spread," said Oscar Garcia, president of Mesa de la Comunidad, a nonprofit that advocates for the Latino community in Mountain View.

The suspects, whose names are not being released, do not have criminal records, police said. But Graham Middle School Principal Gretchen Jacobs said that according to school records they were a "continuous problem" and "always in trouble" when they attended Graham last year.

The alleged crimes are an isolated incident, she said, adding that the Graham campus is normally calm and free of racial tension.

No one at the meeting seemed to doubt the guilt of the three teens, though police Chief Scott Vermeer said they grew up under difficult circumstances.

"The suspects in this case have a challenging home life," he said. "They are going to find ways to bring attention to themselves."

As for the victims, they have been given group counseling through Youth Services Unit, a new police unit that brings counselors and police officers together to prevent gang violence and other problems facing youth.

Counselor Nicole Gwire said the boys are "angry" and "confused," but are healing thanks to support from the community, police officers and teachers.

"Typical mentality is they will turn their anger and confusion on someone else," Gwire said. "We don't want that to happen to another innocent person."

Community leaders said they hope the Mercy Street incident will spark a conversation about race and hate crime in Mountain View. Alicia Crank, a member of the Human Relations Commission, had already been planning a showing of "Not in Our Town," a documentary about residents in a Montana town who rally against local hate crimes. Although the showing was planned for the spring, Cranks and other community and church leaders now want to show the film in early winter to encourage discussion about race.

"One of the reasons we want to push up the date is it is coming from somewhere," Cranks said of the alleged hate crimes. "Where is this coming from? It is sparking something for people to react like this. Let's find out what it is."

An average of one hate crime per year is reported in Mountain View, according to police spokeswoman Liz Wylie. The Mercy Street incident is the first reported hate crime in 2008.

The classification of "hate crime" is sometimes subjective and often controversial. In October, Spanish-language signs belonging to the elementary school district were stolen and reappeared on Shoreline Boulevard with "No More Aliens" spray-painted on them in red. District administrators called the vandalism a hate crime, but police said they did not have enough information to make that assertion.

E-mail Casey Weiss at cweiss@mv-voice.com


Posted by Jessee, a resident of Castro City
on Dec 19, 2008 at 9:25 am

I know the facts, they are innocent. I will argue the point at the next city council meeting.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 19, 2008 at 1:26 pm


have you gone to the police yet? I know you don't like them very much, but the city council is more likely to support you if you go to the police also. If you want to help your friends, you need to do both.

Posted by Enough!, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 19, 2008 at 4:17 pm

Alicia crank needs to get a clue. Just maybe the race issue in this town has more to do with illegal immigration--a crime just as much as hate crime is a crime. Shut down the Day Worker center, police up El Camino of day workers, send the INS into our businesses and schools. We provide surrouding luxuirous communities of Palo Alto and Los Altos with a ghetto of illegal labor and then stamp ourselves as having a problem with race relations? Incredible.

In this article on race relations, the term Latinos is freely used to describe the victims of a supposed hate crime. In the article on a gang stabbing, no mention of the fact that the pepetrators were Latino, as well as the victim. Was their a hate crime or just a crime. It depends how racist you are in how you answer. Talk about a selective use of labels. We are supposed to believe our town has a issue with race relations when it is being over-run with illegals, descendents of many which wind up in gangs? What about the non-racist, non-Latino bare majority in this town who owns property and pays taxes and puts up with failing schools burdened by children of illegals and increasingly threatened by gang-related issues? Let's not forget about how some of our neighborhoods are being turned into ghettos. Aren't we the victims here? Being against illegal immigration and the many ills it brings to this town does not make one a racist. It makes one a law-abiding citizen.

Posted by Alejandro S., a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Dec 19, 2008 at 10:55 pm

According to Liz Wylie, spokesperson for MVPD, Mountain View has one "hate crime" per year, and this, according to Crank and others, is an epidemic? Do we really need a one-sided committee, looking out for their own special interests, to study this huge once a year problem?

We have far more "hate crimes" occurring from the brave, "tough in numbers" gang members in Mountain View. So many in fact the MVPD recently formed a group of "gang officers" to address the growing Hispanic gang problem.

The facts are that a few misguided Caucasian youths made a poor decision and will pay dearly for it. This incident has been so blown out of proportion since, thank God, no one was physically harmed. You can't say that about so many of the other "hate crimes" I've read about perpetrated by Mountain View gang members e.g., beatings, stabbings and shootings.

Posted by Mr. Deportem, a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2008 at 1:50 pm


Posted by Son of a LEGAL South American, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 21, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Send those people of illegal status back to their own country and QUIT HELPING THEM!!! BY HELPING PEOPLE WHO ARE BREAKING THE LAW< YOU SEND THE MESSAGE SUBCONCIOUSLY TO THEIR KIDS THAT THEY CAN FORM GANGS TO BECOME THEIR OWN FORM OF JUSTICE!! They think to themselves"The cops dont care about us illegals. So we gotta think of ourselves essays! Orale cabrons! JU KNO WHAT I'M TOKKING ABOUT HOMIEZ? SIMON VATOS!" And in reality, the cops should be concerning themselves with the people of legal status. And the ones who are biased because their parents were illegal, should be fired because they are an infection encouraging the gangs."I used to be like you vatos!"

Posted by Son of a LEGAL South American, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 21, 2008 at 6:49 pm

And you better not hide this truth by deleting my post because I'm hispanic and I know people of limited intelligence and who are gang influenced who talk that garbage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Son of a LEGAL South American, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 21, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Get rid of people who break the law and people of legal status(ESPECIALLY THE CHILDREN!) wont be "angry and confused" and wont have anything to GET IN TROUBLE FOR!!!!!YOU KNOW ITS TRUE PEOPLE!!!! FIX THAT AT YOUR NEXT MEETING AND YOU MIGHT HAVE A WHOLE BUNCH OF MONEY TO FIX EVERYTHING!!!! DOES THAT MAKE SENSE OR ARE YOU GONNA PROVE YOUR CITYWIDE STUPIDITY BY LETTING IT CONTINUE??????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!