San Diego arson targets housing justice group

November 13, 2018

Julien Ball reports on an apparent right-wing attack on a San Diego community group.

IN WHAT authorities have confirmed was an arson attack, the San Diego office of the community organization Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) was burned down early in the early morning hours of Saturday, November 10. Thankfully, because the attack happened after hours, no one was hurt.

ACCE is a statewide, multiracial, working-class membership organization that fights for housing justice, equity in city services and more.

While it is not known for certain who committed the attack, this arson has all of the hallmarks of political violence by far-right individuals.

It happened three days after an election in which ACCE played a prominent public role in organizing the campaign to pass Proposition 10, which would have restored the right of cities to pass comprehensive and rent control (the measure failed under a $77 million barrage of real-estate industry money) and a campaign by the San Diego office to pass rent control in nearby National City (that measure failed as well by a narrow margin).

The burned-out office of ACCE in San Diego
The burned-out office of ACCE in San Diego (San Diego Free Press)

The attackers likely singled out the ACCE office as a space where historically marginalized populations gather to organize for change. As if to underscore the point, the attackers apparently broke into the building before setting it on fire, brought out out the ACCE’s yellow t-shirts onto the front lawn, and set them on fire outside.

The racist far right has long targeted institutions and organizations that organize working-class people — and people of color in particular — to fight for reforms. Thus, during the civil rights movement, Black churches, which played a leading role in the struggle, were bombed and torched by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists.

And as Doug Porter of the grassroots San Diego Free Press wrote: “If the past history of right-wing attacks on progressive organizations are any clue, expect a statement from some local official suggesting the group torched itself looking for sympathy. Not one of these sorts of statements has ever proven true, dating back to the days of the original San Diego Free Press offices being torched.”


What you can do

Donate to ACCE to help the San Diego chapter rebuild.

ACCE has called on supporters in the San Diego area to gather for a press conference on November 13 at 9 a.m. at 384 H St. in Chula Vista.

ON SATURDAY morning, ACCE’s San Diego Office Director Paola Martinez-Montes posted on Facebook:

We were able to go into what is left of the space we came together in to build power in San Diego. Every inch of the inside of our office is totally destroyed. It’s confirmed arson. The police are investigating and will update with more tomorrow. It’s devastating, premeditated and full of rage.

Is this really what we have come to?...

We are overwhelmed by the love from our community. Thank you all for your generosity and solidarity. Our staff and members are ready to keep fighting. This will not stop us! When they go low, we go high!

ACCE members, staff, partners and elected officials will be coming together at the ACCE office at 9 a.m. on Tuesday to address the press. Please join us. No doubt there will be lots to do to help us rebuild.

ACCE’s statewide Facebook page underlined the message of defiant resistance the next day:

With or without an office, our movement to assert that HOUSING IS a HUMAN RIGHT stands unwavering. Until we ALL have a safe, healthy and affordable place to call home, we will stand strong and fight. We will not back down

Like the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the murders at a Tallahassee, Florida, yoga studio and the attempts by a fanatical Trump supporter to target media and political figures with mail bombs, this arson took place in a climate in which a bigoted president has given voice to ideas that had been considered fringe — and has emboldened reactionaries to put their ideas into action.

To defeat the far right, we need a united response that mobilizes everywhere we can — in every union, every campus, every community group, every liberal and left-wing political organization — to bring together the masses of people horrified by right-wing terrorism. The far right must be confronted.

One immediate step we can take is to help ACCE rebuild. Those who would like to help can make a contribution here.

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