From one old school First Amendment dude to — dear God — another

Courtesy PAPD twitter feed, our Chief Dennis Burns, back in 1982

Courtesy PAPD twitter feed, our Chief Dennis Burns, back in 1982


I happened into our Police Chief, Dennis Burns, today in front of City Hall and pigeon-holed him on this topic. He gave me his card, so I didn’t want to lose pace hence:

  • mark weiss
  • Today at 3:33 PM
Dear Chief Dennis Burns:
I am wondering if you could personally look into the Gunn graffiti case of May, 2014, as I mentioned to you, in passing in front of City Hall today.
I wrote about this case on my blog, which is called “Plastic Alto”, and made some comments on the Palo Alto Weekly website.
My main point is:
How can something be a hate crime if it starts out with “Thank God…” ?
Sounds almost like a prayer, like something the First Amendment might protect.
I have a bone to pick with the media, the Palo Alto Weekly — have they distorted and sensationalized the case?
They quote our Lt. Zach Perron, the Communications Officer, which introduces the terms “racial” and “hate” I believe.
But isn’t it the District Attorney’s office that would figure when speech becomes a crime and the rare exceptions to the First Amendment guarantees?
Maybe my beef is with the law itself and both of above were doing their job to the letter. I come from the old school — when I studied Constitutional Law (undergrad) at Dartmouth College and in fact was a Nelson Rockefeller Center Fellow in Public Policy (sponsors of my journalism internship with Peninsula Times Tribune of Palo Alto — when you were already on force but not yet an agent — I saw an old picture of you posted on the Twitter feed) — the Supreme Court was led by Chief Justice Warren Burger  and there were no graffiti hate crimes.
My specific request –and excuse my verbosity here, above — is: I wish to know the exact contents of the messages found at Gunn High that day — are they a public record?
Thank you and your staff for your excellent service to our community and your timely response here.
Mark Weiss
Palo Alto, CA 94304
(650) 305-XXXXX
I didn’t have to mention that I was Candidate for City Council in 2009 (800 votes) and 2012 (4,500 votes) and may call when the bet comes back around the table to me this summer fall.
edit to add: two weeks later and no word. Coinkydinky, I ran into our chief later that afternoon, still in his nice suit, supervising some sort of bust or interrogation on corner of Uni and Bryant. I was checking out the scene from a safe distance, and watching the drama that also included a crippled panhandler named Zach — I wanted to see if Zach and Dennis would have a rapport. When I walked past Chief Dennis Burns said he had seen my email, my request for information about the Gunn graffiti case.
Meanwhile I noticed online a 2002 case that is precedent, including this quote, from a PAUSD administrator:

“Due to the fact that it had a negative comment about [an administrator], it sounded more like an act of graffiti [by a student] than a hate crime,” said Irv Rollins, assistant superintendent of the Palo Alto Unified School District, who would not reveal the name of the targeted faculty member. “I’ve been in the school business for almost 40 years and, unfortunately, we all have our turn.”

Lori Kratzer the Police lieutenant meanwhile is quoted as insisting that these are indeed hate crimes — this one included swastikas, although the article implied that there were poorly drawn — which reminds me of the Monty Python sketch from Life of Brian where the Romans correct the grammar, the Latin, of the insurgents and their graffiti. I almost also wrote to Joe Simitian to look into this, based on someone pointing out to me his role in the history of PAUSD shedding property, and now a recent school building bill he sponsored, one of his last victories before being termed out at State level, now at County. I am claiming that Doe targeted N-Building perhaps partly as political commentary in our investment in bricks-and-mortar over better staff and teachers.


About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
This entry was posted in art, ethniceities, Plato's Republic, words and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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