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An RV dealer in Southern California recently was caught up in the political turmoil over a possible war in Iraq.
Jeff Collison, owner of The RV Center in La Habra, Calif., allowed nearby residents to build a memorial honoring the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on his property, which was trashed by antiwar protesters on Saturday (March 8), according to the Whittier (Calif.) Daily News.
Although police officers witnessed the vandalism, they did not arrest three people seen damaging the display because they were “exercising the same freedom of speech that the people who put up the flags were,” said La Habra Police Capt. John Rees. “For this to be vandalism, there had to be an ill-will intent.”
The police, according to Rees, will not take action unless Collison files a complaint, which he told the newspaper he might do.
“Their free speech stops at destruction of private property,” Collison said. “If they are allowed to come on my property and burn flags, does that mean I can go to City Hall or the police station and light their flags on fire because that is freedom of speech? To me, this is vandalism.”
Some residents Monday (March 10) hung signs criticizing those who destroyed the display. Tracey Chandler, a Whittier mother of four who has maintained the spontaneous memorial since it was created by other area residents soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said she was shocked by the destruction.
“It’s unbelievable, because there were absolutely no political messages on this fence,” she said. “It was all about supporting our troops, which could mean bringing them home, and about remembering 9-11.”
Chandler added, “We are going to rebuild this memorial, and it will be brighter, bigger and better than ever.”