Tuesday, March 27, 2007

San Diego Minuteman Charged In Assault On Laborers

SAN DIEGO -- Nine misdemeanor criminal charges were filed Monday against a member of the San Diego Minutemen, City Attorney Michael Aguirre announced.

John Matthew Monti, 36, is accused of four counts of battery and four counts of interfering with the civil rights of day laborers, as well as one count of falsifying a crime report with the San Diego Police Department.

The charges stem from an incident last Nov. 18 in Rancho Penasquitos.

The city attorney alleges that Monti began taking photographs of the workers, calling them, "dirty Mexicans." Monti then allegedly punched Estanislao Gonzales, a disabled man who attempted to walk away from him, Aguirre said.

Another day laborer, Roberto Pena, tried to help Gonzales and was also assaulted by Monti, according to Aguirre.

After the incident, Monti contacted police and claimed he was robbed and assaulted by as many as eight migrant workers, Aguirre said.

Monti is due to appear in court on April 13.

Monti lives outside San Diego County.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Racism rides again

By: BRIGID BRETT - For the North County Times

It's been four months since a chorus of San Diego Minutemen shouted at Olga Diaz to "go back to Mexico" at an Escondido City Council meeting, yet Diaz still hears their jeers as clearly as if they were shouted at her last night. It would have been bad enough if Diaz actually was from Mexico, but she was born and raised in the United States and is therefore as American as President Bush himself. I was at City Hall that night and I remember literally feeling my skin crawl when Diaz had those words flung at her, followed by a rowdy burst of applause that echoed through the chambers.

It crawled in much the same way when I read about the family of legal immigrants from El Salvador who moved into a house in Kentucky and received, instead of a welcome basket, a burning cross on their lawn and a note that read: "My country, maybe. My neighborhood ---- no way."

And it crawled when I heard about the migrant workers in Rancho Penasquitos who came back to their camps after work to find their clothes slashed, boots torn and blankets ripped in half.

These situations are all different, involving people who have broken the law and people who haven't, but the thread that somehow binds them is the level of damage that can be inflicted through self-righteousness, bigotry and undiluted hate.

That night at the Escondido City Council meeting, what struck me after the shouting at Diaz and the applause from the supporters of the Minutemen died down, was the deafening silence in the room. With the level of tension as high as it was, it was probably best to let the moment dissipate in its own way, but at the time I wanted somebody in a position of authority to denounce the flagrant display of racism. It didn't happen and it doesn't seem to be happening often enough. In fact, hate is on the rise. You don't have to look far to find it. It's in the comments and blogs on the Web site of this newspaper and it's in the airwaves that flow through our homes and our cars.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports a 40 percent rise in the number of hate groups since 2000 and the formation of 250 anti-illegal immigrant groups in just the last two years. The center's Mark Potok notes an increase of hateful propaganda that blames (Latino) immigrants for just about anything, even leprosy and malaria ---- although the few cases of leprosy that exist in the U.S. were brought from Asia and malaria comes from mosquitoes.

The Anti-Defamation League, which monitors the activities of hate groups, has documented a noticeable spike in activity by Ku Klux Klan chapters across the country. "If any one single issue or trend can be credited with re-energizing the Klan, it is the debate over immigration in America," said Deborah M. Lauter, the league's civil rights director.

Everything changed for Olga Diaz when she was treated with hate and contempt because of her race, just as everything changed for that family in Kentucky who watched a cross burning on their lawn. In this country, it turns out, racism is more lethal than either leprosy or mosquitoes could ever be.

Valley Center resident Brigid Brett is a freelance columnist for the North County Times. Contact her at brigidbrett@aol.com.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Minuteman Founder Jeff Schwilk Sued For Defamation

A local Minuteman leader whose home was searched by San Diego police Wednesday has now been sued for defamation, along with an associate.

Joanne Yoon, a former San Diego State University student, filed the lawsuit yesterday in San Diego Superior Court against Oceanside resident Jeff Schwilk, founder of the San Diego Minutemen, and fellow anti-illegal immigration activist Ray Carney.

According to the complaint, Yoon, 24, was working as an independent contractor for the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego last year. She monitored the activities of the Minutemen at day labor sites as a coordinator for the San Diego Legal Observer Coalition.

The suit, which includes a Web posting and e-mails allegedly written by the defendants, says that Schwilk and Carney repeatedly referred to Yoon in e-mails and on the Web in vulgar terms.

Neither Schwilk nor Carney could be reached for comment yesterday.

In the lawsuit, one Web posting attributed to them shows a photo of Yoon surrounded by day laborers, with the text insinuating that she is a prostitute: “She really is popular or very inexpensive. (Hey Joe . . . Five Dolla-Five Dolla),” the text reads.

Yoon is Korean-American.

The posting concludes with an offer of $50 to anyone who can find her home address.

He said Yoon did not wish to comment on the lawsuit, which seeks $1 million in compensatory damages. The idea, he said, “is to deter this kind of conduct.”


Thursday, March 22, 2007

San Diego Minutemen Founder has been Raided

NORTH COUNTY ---- San Diego police served search warrants to the homes of San Diego Minutemen founder Jeff Schwilk and migrant camp critic Julie Adams Wednesday morning as part of the investigation into vandalism at migrant camps in Rancho Penasquitos last January, authorities said.

Vandals tore into the camps over the weekend of Jan. 27 and 28, destroying clothing, sleeping bags, jackets and other belongings, San Diego police spokeswoman Monica Munoz said.

According to police, a migrant worker who lives in one of the camps told them that four men and two women were allegedly involved in the vandalism.

An investigation into the case is ongoing and no arrests have been made, Munoz said.

Police also served a search warrant last month to former Minutemen spokeswoman Christie Czajkowski. The search resulted in the confiscation of a personal computer, video camera and video tapes.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the San Diego Police Northeastern Division at (858) 538-8000 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-TIPS. Crime Stoppers offers up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to arrests and callers may remain anonymous.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Two charged in violent hate crime against deli clerks

SEATTLE - Two people have been charged under the state's hate crime law after a surveillance camera at Saleh's Delicatessen in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood caught a confrontation between two customers and two clerks during which racial slurs, obscenities and punches were thrown.

A Seattle man and a Shoreline woman were charged Thursday afternoon with malicious harassment. The two are accused of slinging words and punches at the clerks.

Surveillance footage shows a 35-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman trying to buy beer and cigarettes.

Steven Saleh and his nephew, Fares Kasim, were behind the counter. The men say the pair appeared drunk and quickly became belligerent.

"She said we were un-American and she started calling us names like 'Arabs' and 'go back to your country' and all that," Kasim said.

"Hey guess what? You're un-American. You can't," the woman is seen saying on tape.

After the rude comments, the store clerks refused to serve the couple.

Surveillance footage shows Saleh demanding the pair to leave.

"Get out!" he says.

"Guess what, you un-American mother------!" the woman responds.

"She's drunk. She's drunk. She's drunk. Get her out of here," Saleh says to the man.

But instead of leaving with the woman, the footage shows the man lunging across the counter and trying to reach for Saleh's throat.

But Saleh manages to back up, grab a metal bar and protect himself and his nephew.

Saleh is then seen swinging the bar and hitting the man in the shoulder, but the pair still refuses to leave.

Saleh called police, who then came and arrested the pair.

Saleh says he suffered only scratches and bruises from the woman, but said the words flung at him and his nephew struck him deep.

"She kept her racial slurs throughout the incident from A to Z. She knew exactly what she was saying," Saleh said. "They were intoxicated, but they knew exactly what they were doing."

Kasim says he has worked in different grocery stores in rougher neighborhood before, but this incident really shocked him.

"I was just shocked. I mean I never seen something like this with all the racial names that she called us. She started fighting for no reason," he said.

Saleh says neighbors have overwhelmed him with support after hearing about the incident.

If convicted, the charged man and woman can get up to nine months in prison.