Boulder Creek lights the way with anti-racism vigil
Cathy Smith and Jondi GUmz - sentinel staff writers
Article Launched: 12/21/2005 4:00:00 AM MST
BOULDER CREEK — Scores of people, young and old, lined Highway 9 Tuesday night, shoulder to shoulder, carrying lighted candles to take a stand against racist behavior in their town.
"I've never seen anything like it," said Pam Hannah, 46, a mother of two who has lived in Boulder Creek for 15 years. "I saw so many faces I recognized. I got teary-eyed."
The candle flames glowing in the dark created a feeling of unity in the picturesque mountain village, where the downtown businesses are always lit up for the holiday.
"We don't like racism up here," said Joe's Bar bartender Christine Martine.
Her boss, Karin Ann Kipphut, was among those at the vigil, along with Luis Alejo of the Brown Berets in Watsonville, San Lorenzo Valley schools chief Julie Haff, and local members of National Coalition Building Institute.
Participants sang "This Land is Your Land," and people living in downtown apartments put candles on their window sills in a sign of solidarity while motorists driving by honked in support.
"I saw people from all over the valley," said Felton resident Brenda Armstrong, a member of the San Lorenzo Valley Equity Committee, which organized the event. "A lot of high school students, too. One woman I didn't know came up to me and asked 'Can I stand with you?' "
Organizers planned the event, "Stand Up Against Racism," after a small number of young white men confronted some minorities this fall, sparking concern in the mountain village. Sheriff's Sgt. Fred Plageman and business owners said Tuesday that problems have abated since a community meeting was held Nov. 8, and that increased patrols by deputies seem to have helped.
Supervisor Mark Stone called the meeting at the request of business owners, and Sheriff Steve Robbins and others attended, hearing from an overflow crowd of residents concerned about intolerance by some in the community and a slow response time by deputies.
Some at the meeting said intermittent incidents of intolerance may be exacerbated by an increasing amount of Latinos who are working in restaurants or are seeking jobs.
Two men were arrested Nov. 4 after one was found with weapons in his truck, allegedly marked with swastikas, and a second man allegedly used racial slurs against a motorist who is a minority while striking the man's car windshield.
One admitted to a misdemeanor threats charge and the other to possessing a loaded gun in a vehicle. Both are to be sentenced in mid-January.
Robert West of Verrerie Goods glass art gallery on Highway 9 said one of the men arrested approached him after he was quoted in a previous article about disturbances in front of his gallery. He said the man expressed disdain for him, and "postured" as if to start a fight, but did not, and did not threaten him.
He called the candlelight vigil "a marvelous show of solidarity."
"I still see some of those kids around, but they don't seem to be congregating in force," he said. "And the Sheriff's Office and the CHP have increased patrols."
Doug Conrad, owner of Boulder Creek Hardware and head of the Boulder Creek Business Association, said incidents of harassment have subsided but shoplifting remains a concern.
He said he is continuing to meet with Stone, other business owners and school officials and wants to understand, among other things, the accountability teens are held to in independent studies programs in the valley.
The Equity Committee meets at San Lorenzo Valley High School on Highway 9 in Felton and is open to all community members. For more information, call Roberta McPherson at 338-0815 or the high school at 335-4425, ext. 266.