Racial intimidation escalates in Arroyo Grande
March 6, 2012
By KAREN VELIE
While the suspects of an Arroyo Grande cross burning await their trial, the victims continue to be assaulted with racism now in the form of hate filled flyers.
On Friday, the African American teen who awoke last March to find an 11-foot cross burning outside her bedroom window pulled into the Shell service station on Grand Avenue with her mother. They then discovered two racist flyers placed over ads on top of the pump they where using.
“Replacing whites with non-whites is not justice,” one of the flyers says. “It is time to straiten this out.”
A gas station employee said that he has been taking down racist flyers, some “worse” than the two noticed on Friday, for months.
And while hate speech is protected under the First Amendment, placing flyers on private property over ads is not, Arroyo Grande Police Chief Steve Annibali said.
“We have seen those flyers around town,” Annibali said. “I’ve also seen them around SLO County.”
In December, a hate filled flyer identical to one of those found last week in Arroyo Grande was found in a bathroom in the Cal Poly Robert E. Kennedy Library.
“How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem,” the flyer says. “I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?[sic]”
Since the March 2011 cross burning, the Arroyo Grande family has been the victim of numerous acts of intimidation including an alleged gang member knocking on their door to discover if they still lived on Elm Street, racial flyers and spray painted racial graffiti.
In December, the alleged victim of the cross burning discovered someone had spray painted the name of a white supremacist gang and a cross on a wall across from her then Elm Street home using a pre-made template. The vandalism faced the site of the earlier cross burning.
The family, which has lived in the area for 10 years and recently moved into a new home, is not being named to protect their privacy.
In July, police arrested Orcutt resident Jason Kahn, 36, San Simeon transient Jeremiah Hernandez, 32, Arroyo Grande transient William Soto, 20, and San Simeon transient Sara Matheny, 24. All four are former Arroyo Grande residents.
Each of the suspects is charged with arson, cross burning, terrorism, conspiracy and hate crime enhancements while conspiring with others.
Kahn was also charged with witness intimidation.
There is some evidence that the suspects are connected to organized hate groups, police said.
Last week, San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy agreed to extend the start of the trial until April to allow time for the defense attorneys to get access to all 911 recordings, police reports and interviews. The defendants have all pleaded not guilty and remain in jail.