“Yell ‘FIRE’ yo, eo yo yo”, Michael Franti, 2006*
Sean Berry, an 18-year-old recent graduate of Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California, a stones throw – but be careful — from Stanford University, will be sentenced January 26 by Santa Clara courts for felony vandalism, dating to his actions in May, 2014 when he spewed his spleen and a couple cans of spray paint on the walls of his campus.
THANK GOD LOBOS IS GONE.
That one was reported by the student newspaper, The Gunn Oracle. (Note: I was editor in chief of the same publication, in 1981-1982, and co-editor in chief, along with Andres Fajardo, in 1980-1981). Lobos, I am guessing refers to former Gunn principal Katya Villalobos who was indeed reassigned to the district office. “God” I am only guessing is referring to the principal of the Torah and The Bible, also known as Yiaway, G-d, Jehovah or You, and, when I studied “Paradise Lost” by James Milton, with Chauncey Loomis at Dartmouth — and as was depicted by Donald Sutherland in “Animal House” he or she was omniniscent, omni-benevolent and all-powerful. “Thank God Lobos is gone” is, in my books, a prayer and protected by the First Amendment, thank you Jesus. And Moses. And Isaiah. And Wayne Gretsky.
And Warren Burger. Or was that Earl Warren. I will know it when I see it.
TOO MANNY ASIANS HERE
2 MANNY ASIANS HERE.
Armani as is wear?
My point is that despite the general scuttlebutt of this case it is super hush-hush and on the down low wink wink what it is that who I first wrote about as John Doe and sometimes but we now now as Sean Berry ’14 but not Sean Berry the singer nor Sean Barry #22 ’13 or Wade Barry tight end — I think — there is a serious amount of rumor and mystery here.
I met with Chief of Police Dennis Burns on this and a not-necessarily related matter on December 1, 2014 and he told me, to the best of his knowledge that there is no current or recent Gunn student being charged with a graffiti hate crime. I was told that my whistle-blower cover-up theory was wrong and there was no connection between what Berry (who I only knew of as “Doe”) wrote other rumors making the rounds. I
Yet, Breena Kerr or Brenna Kerr of the Daily Post (but not the Palo Alto Daily news, priceless) reports, and this is the headline
TEEN GOES TO JAIL FOR RACIST GRAFFITI.
No, Brenna, he is to be sentenced on January 26 and is likely to have to take a class, not at Gunn, and maybe taking notes with pencil and paper not spray can and shingles, on sensitivity or discrimination or and spend his weekends stabbing Snickers wrappers with a long pole and a nail and again, pointedly not an aerosol, or stickers or stencils but I firmly believe, hours into this, that he is more Eminem will the real Slim Shady please stand up please stand up than Daniel Burros or David Duke.”Bias prevention training” is the term used in Elena Kadvany’s report.
He pleaded guilty to a felony based on the dollar amount of damage he is accepting responsibility for, not because of his message per se. And I am not condoning hate speech, I hate hate, and think of all my fellows as near enough my brothers and sisters, but I also respect the Constitution and believe that just as we have the Nazis marching in Skokie we have a kid on his worst day letting it fly and that’s better than some agency or entity that may or may not reflect We The People stopping him or me, or you, good readers.
But I may have to retract, even here at Plastic Alto, the blog with 500,000 words, 1,100 posts but no readers and eat humble pie and crow if indeed once we see what it is that Sean Berry is trying to say. (edit to add: three years later: I’ve redacted some parts of above that are not defensible even as a blog)
My point is that there is the facts of the case, and I believe the various reports, compared side by side, reading between the lines that there was vandalism and the cost to remedy is more than $400 (four hundred dollars) making this a felony and not a misdemeanor and not a “senior prank” and probably not funny — unless God, besides being omniscient, omnipotent and “all good” also has an inscrutable sense of humor — one one hand and a hoax — based on the words “hocus pocus” and there is also, if you excuse another digression a very good book by Kunt Vonnegut on a not unrelated set of topics — “the Gunn graffiti hate crime” on the other.
The hoax is the combined bumblings of the following groups of people:
– the school administrators, and teachers, and students and parents
-the public safety workers, the police, the resource cop, the spokesman and Chief
-the press, The Weekly, The Daily News, The Post;
I will have to do a bit more reading and talking and learning and maybe go to the sentencing before I comment on the Courts per se. But kudos to the Attorney General of the U.S and Director of Homeland Security for not making this a Fedoeral case (that’s one where everyone wears Fedoras or wigs).
But as I read about this my first gut reaction seems true: the law is a mess.
And I really should not speculate how this fits into my interest in Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson, his book and the fact that Gideon v. Wainright is not being enforced. I would like to talk to Sean Berry, his parent or parents or guardians, and his attorney before I speculate on whether he is of the class that gets or doesn’t get Equal Protection under the Constitution.
Meanwhile I do have calls out to various attorney’s, pundits and artists on WTF.
And I wish I could, as the song playing right now is suggesting shake it off, shake shake shake.
but to be more clear: I think the adults should know better. I am more concerned with the mis-carriage of justice and policy here than the graffiti.
I think teachers and board and Supe from PAUSD should write requesting leniency.
And America has a serious crisis, not just in Palo Alto, about the decline of The Fourth Estate.
edit to add: I posted nearly 8 months afterwards under Jason Green’s depiction of this case, and also briefly exchanged privately with him, expressing my concern:
Can we be clearer on the distinction between felony vandalism based on dollar amount to remedy and whether the message is protected or not by First Amendment? I am suggesting that even that headline is misleading.
Palo Alto: Juvenile cited for racist graffiti at high school. Would he be subject to the same laws and penalty if he wrote HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME and 12 other lines from the classic T.S. Eliot “The Waste Land”? Is he a racist or is he indeed mocking racists?
*take us out, brother Michael:
They tellin’ you to worry about the future
They tellin’ you to never worry about the torture
They tellin’ you that you’ll never see the horror
Spend it all today and we will bill you tomorrow
Three piece suits and bank accounts in Bahamas
Wall street crime will never send you to the slammer
Tell all the children in the arms of their mummas
The F-15 is a homocide bomber
The war is obscene. Saying shit fuck ass or what not is just words peoples. In my book you fire the teacher that made the kids leave their desks to pre-judge this and the kid, Sean Berry sues us for squashing his rights to Free Speech and Due Process. Mea culpa. I’ll cop to that.
and1: I am also thinking that John Paye the football hero told me the other day he recalls going to Stanford Stadium as a kid to toss the ball around with Turk Shoenert and he sees Brian DiBiaso, Kent Lockhart and Jim Harbaugh all great athletes being paid to stencil numbers unto or into the wood benches there, for money. Stanford pays them. I guess as they say about comedy, timing is everything. Jah bless.
and: yes I did interview Kurt Vonnegut or Edmund Burns and I did in spring 1983 although apparently he was drunk and depressed and suicidal at the time and maybe part of “Hocus Pocus” came out of that experience as a Montgomery Fellow the way parts of Tom Wolfe “I Am Charlotte Simmons” is based on Stanford.
and and: four teenage boys, after the St Francis San Ramon game, talk about the gods must be crazy, fighting over what we used to call “shotgun” said “Don’t be a (predicate nominative often also the religion of Jesus Christ, and my ancestors) and then “Don’t be a f—-‘ J–” as I stood 20 feet away and tried to glare, from beside my car, thru the dark, then I got into the car and glared further, and waited, then pulled out and paused, then drove 50 feet pulled over and waited, and I have no idea whether they were getting high, or talking about me and plotting an escape or talking about what classmate of theirs looked best in stretch pants. Yet, they are not using our tax dollars to enforce their idiocy, are not teachers or cops, or the media.