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In San Diego, Tracking Hate Symbols Is Key To Solving Hate Crimes

Audio

Aired 7/23/12

Southern California has one of the nation's highest concentrations of hate groups, and law enforcement partners with anti-hate nonprofits to solve and prevent hate crimes.

These are boots that Detective Ellen Vest said are evidence their owners were white extremists. The red laces mean the owner had spilled blood for their cause.
Enlarge this image

Above: These are boots that Detective Ellen Vest said are evidence their owners were white extremists. The red laces mean the owner had spilled blood for their cause.

— Detective Ellen Vest investigates hate crimes for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and she recently recalled a case in which a white skinhead attacked an African-American man outside a bar, causing brain damage.

Vest thought the assault was a hate crime.

“He had one swastika on his shoulder that he displayed to our African-American victim. So we served a search warrant on his house,” she said of the suspect, who was ultimately convicted. “He had a money clip that had a little KKK man on it, with a burning cross. He didn’t have a lot, but what he did have was really pretty specific to show he was a biased individual.”

To convict a suspect of a hate crime, proving that bias is critical. And for detectives like Vest, one of the best ways to do that is by looking for those hate symbols.

Often they’re in tattoos. But they’re also in posters or pictures in a suspect’s home, or engraved on personal belongings.

Some, like the swastika, are obvious.

Others are not so well-known, especially in a place like Southern California, which has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of white supremacist groups.

That’s why Vest works closely with the Anti-Defamation League. The nonprofit keeps a large database of hate symbols used by extremist groups, and tracks those symbols as they evolve.

Tina Malka is associate director of the Anti-Defamation League of San Diego, and this database is one of her important tools. The ADL trains law enforcement to recognize these symbols at crime scenes, and helps prosecutors use them to argue a crime was motivated by prejudice.

Malka, Vest and Oscar Garcia, a San Diego County deputy district attorney, team up to give the trainings at police academies.

These are boots that Detective Ellen Vest said are evidence their owners were white extremists. They have swastikas on the soles.
Enlarge this image

Above: These are boots that Detective Ellen Vest said are evidence their owners were white extremists. They have swastikas on the soles.

Here in San Diego, with its large military community, they also train military doctors to recognize hateful tattoos when screening new recruits.

“That’s really important because we don’t want people from extremist groups joining to get some kind of weapons training,” Malka said.

The signs and symbols of hate can be both discreet and on full display.

Vest has a pair of confiscated heavy black combat boots popular with white extremists on the floor of her office. She said the red laces meant the owner had spilled blood for his cause. She uses the boots as a doorstop, and as a vase for flowers.

On a second pair, she showed me the rubber treading on the sole, which took the shape of swastikas, meant to leave an intimidating print wherever they stepped.

Vest said the evidence that hate is alive and well gets more disturbing when she enters homes.

Special Feature The Search For Tolerance

Fronteras: The Changing America Desk has joined forces with Not in Our Town documentary producers to determine how hate affects communities throughout the Southwest and what people are doing about it.

“It’s sad because I’ve gone into homes and seen a sticker up on the refrigerator for the kids to memorize the 14 words,” she said, referring to the racist mantra, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

Some extremist websites now feature children’s video games that allow them to shoot immigrants crossing the border.

That’s why the detective, the Anti-Defamation League and the district attorney’s office also take an educational tack. They give presentations at schools, hoping to reach out to kids before they learn to hate.

Comments

Avatar for user 'prellmech'

prellmech | July 24, 2012 at 8:47 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations' 2010 Hate Crime Report documents a third consecutive year in which hate crimes dropped around the county.

Hate crimes reported in L.A. County fell to their lowest level in 21 years, fueled by major drops in vandalism and in gang-related crimes, particularly those by Latino gangs targeting African Americans, which had made up a large number of the most violent hate crimes.

Hate crimes drop to 21-year low in L.A. County
November 18, 2011

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/11/hate-crimes-drop-to-21-year-low-say-county-commission.html

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Avatar for user 'Willard'

Willard | July 24, 2012 at 10:38 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

prell may not have read the story, it's not about LA county

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | July 24, 2012 at 11:45 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

One non-sequitur deserves another: One of San Diego's exports just committed a monster of a hate crime in Colorado. Touché Monsieur Prellmech! Let's prove to the world that you're right about all Mexicans and Latinos.

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Avatar for user 'prellmech'

prellmech | July 24, 2012 at 1:25 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Can you say 'Los Palillos'?

SAN DIEGO -- Two members of a violent kidnapping gang killed many of their victims and dissolved some their bodies in acid, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday.

In his opening statement in the trial of Jose Olivera Beritan and David Valencia, Deputy District Attorney Mark Amador said the defendants targeted Mexican drug dealers and businessmen living in the U.S. whose families were unlikely to report the crimes. He said the remains of two of the murder victims were dissolved in acid after their May 2007 deaths. What was left of their remains was not discovered until more than two years later at a ranch owned by Valencia, he said.

Defense attorneys were scheduled to make an opening statement later today.

The prosecutor said Olivera Beritan, 38, and Valencia, 41, are part of Los Palillos, or the Toothpicks, a splinter group from the Arellano Felix cartel that for years shipped drugs through Tijuana to San Diego.

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Avatar for user 'Willard'

Willard | July 24, 2012 at 1:44 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Not sure how prell's comment is relevant,are there mexican white extremist gangs now?
I don't necessarily agree that many symbols/clothing etc can be linked, as some German and other types of imagery has long been a part of pop culture

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | July 24, 2012 at 2:16 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Prell is just trying really hard to make a point about how evil Mexicans are. It's impossible for me to care less about idiots involved in the drug trade, but I'll indulge his example: Los Palillos don't target their victims based on ethnicity. They're a drug gang; as such, they target competitors, informants, etc.

The danger with bigoted thinking is that it manifests itself in the form of random attacks and violence (like those mentioned in the article). That's why bigotry and racism must be addressed whenever and wherever they surface. I condemn violence in general, especially when it's the result of differences in physical appearance, sexual orientation or opinions. Peace.

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Avatar for user 'prellmech'

prellmech | July 24, 2012 at 2:58 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

SAN DIEGO — A woman who prosecutors said lured victims into a trap set by a drug-trafficking and murder crew was convicted Thursday of conspiracy and two counts of kidnapping for ransom.

The jury in the case of Nancy Mendoza Moreno, 24, also found several allegations to be true, including that she acted for the benefit of a criminal street gang — known as Los Palillos — and that one of the victims suffered bodily harm. The panel acquitted her of a third count of kidnapping for ransom.

San Diego Superior Court Judge John Einhorn scheduled Mendoza’s sentencing hearing for Aug. 16. She faces a possible sentence of life in prison without parole.

Mendoza is the third defendant to be tried this year in connection with Los Palillos, Spanish for “toothpicks,” which prosecutors contend is responsible for a spate of local kidnappings and killings that took place between 2004 and 2007. Some of their victims had ties to the Arellano-Felix drug cartel in Tijuana.

The jury found that Mendoza played a role in two kidnappings, including one Jan. 31, 2007, when a man she befriended at a gym was abducted and held for 22 days. The kidnappers collected $450,000 from the victim’s family.

In June 2007, Mendoza met a man at a coffee shop and asked him to join her at her “aunt’s house” in Chula Vista. When he stepped inside, he was attacked by men dressed as police officers, who punched, kicked and shocked him with a stun gun, then held him for eight days.

After his family paid nearly $200,000 ransom, the FBI raided the home and arrested several suspects.

...actually, it's no effort at all. The point is that Mexican gangs commit more crimes in SD County than all the skinheads west of the Rockies. So why is KPBS focusing on white extremists?

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | July 24, 2012 at 3:21 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

"...actually, it's no effort at all." is the response to "Prell is just trying really hard to make a point about how evil Mexicans are."

Would you put down your copy of Mein Kampf long enough to read the article and differentiate between Mexicans and Mexican gangs. Those poor, poor skinheads. Oi!

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Avatar for user 'Willard'

Willard | July 24, 2012 at 3:22 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

In answer to prell "Why is KPBS focusing on white extremists?" because that's what the story's about, even if some want to change the subject
Hate Crime Statistics, 2009,
* Of the 6,598 single-bias incidents, 48.5 percent were motivated by a racial bias, 19.7 percent were motivated by a religious bias, 18.5 percent were motivated by a sexual-orientation bias, and 11.8 percent were motivated by an ethnicity/national origin bias. Bias against a disability accounted for 1.5 percent of single-bias incidents. http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/discrimination/hate-crime-stats.php

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Avatar for user 'prellmech'

prellmech | July 24, 2012 at 3:50 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

re. "because that's what the story's about"

The question is why is KPBS concentrating so intently on crimes against "poor, poor" Latinos when much of the petty and violent crime committed in San Diego County is committed by Latinos? It's not bigoted to ask the question. But do you feel so boxed into a corner by the obvious answer that you have to create straw men like the Aurora shooter and 81-year-old grandmothers?

Ah, but maybe there's some room for agreement: "I condemn violence in general, especially when it's the result of differences in physical appearance, sexual orientation or opinions."

Yes, let's condemn all violent crime, based on hate or otherwise. But let's also not underestimate the considerable crime committed in San Diego, and now the rest of the country, because of a porous border. Crime is crime, and let's not ignore any category for reasons of political sensitivity, as KPBS seems to be doing.

White hate crimes in SD County are few in number these days. That doesn't mean they should be ignored. But like the Escondido police chief said, "America has enough of its own criminality. We really don't need criminals from another country."

I think he's right, even if you don't.

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Avatar for user 'Willard'

Willard | July 24, 2012 at 5:45 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

I don't know if KPBS has noticed that there are a few that are turning every story into a debate on Latinos or immigrants, this is considered spamming on most websites

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | July 24, 2012 at 6:20 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Prellmech's comments are relevant if the issue is "In San Diego, Tracking Hate Symbols Is Key To Solving Hate Crimes [by Mexicans from Mexico]."

"Detective Ellen Vest investigates hate crimes for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and she recently recalled a case in which a white skinhead attacked an African-American man outside a bar, causing brain damage."

Although there's no mention of "Latino victims" anywhere in the article and the example used relates to an African-American, Prellmech argues that Latinos are the root cause of the problem. Nice try! You should learn how to read and properly use rhetoric before you try "boxing me into a corner."

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | July 24, 2012 at 6:28 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Willard,

I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I'm willing to bet that an overwhelming majority of KPBS donors - I amongst them - don't condone skinheads' behavior or bigotry. Sorry if I've offended you by defending Latinos and condemning racists.

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Avatar for user 'prellmech'

prellmech | July 24, 2012 at 7:06 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

re: "I don't know if KPBS has noticed that there are a few that are turning every story into a debate on Latinos or immigrants,"

'Every' story? Every story about what? Everything? It might appear that way only to someone who's looking for a bigot under every bed.

Back to the article about hate crime: KPBS has every right to air stories of every kind. And they're very good at it, which is why they're still in business. But somehow they seem to have lost their way, perhaps trying to appeal to a different 'demographic.' A demographic ostensibly shared by many of the reporters of stories presented by the 'Fronteras' desk.

The fact remains, whatever discomfort it may cause, that a large percentage of crimes committed in San Diego County are perpetrated by offenders from the other side of the border. To use an isolated case of some ignorant white racist committing a hate crime against an African American is missing the forest for the trees.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | July 24, 2012 at 10:56 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Seems like Prellmech is a one issue guy: "That said, there's no question that Mexican migrants -- legal and illegal -- are responsible for a large part of the violence." He posted that months ago in relation to another story. Different story, same conclusion.

It's clear you belong to a demographic ostensibly shared by many of the people who project their self-hatred onto Mexicans. To use an isolated story of some poor African-American being beaten by skinheads to justify racism is missing the forest for the trees. Somehow, you seem to have lost your way ...

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Avatar for user 'prellmech'

prellmech | July 25, 2012 at 9:29 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

No, I don't think I can make you understand, but let me try one more time.

The issue of hate crimes, whether they be white-on-black, latino-on-black, or black-on-blue, is proportionately small compared to the bulk of crimes committed in San Diego County, which are committed by people of all races. And if you read the news every day you'll notice that a disproportionately large amount of violent and petty (property) crimes are committed by Latinos, which is a much more widespread than hate crime.

Pretending not to see this, as you and the 'Fronteras' reporters do results in a distorted portrayal of crime in our region. The isn't about racism, but if you can't understand that I can't help you.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | July 25, 2012 at 10:17 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

True: crime isn't about racism. The context of your views is racist. Understand? There is plenty of crime committed by ethnic Latinos as well as Caucasians. A quick demographic check of our region also explains why the percentage committed by Asians and African-Americans is smaller. No distortion there. Enjoy your day and try not to let any Latinos ruin it.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | July 25, 2012 at 11:43 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Acknowledged, Prellmecha, but then WHO is committing the hate crimes against Jews?

PS: Isn't the LA Times one of those "liberal" papers you are not supposed to pay attention to???

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Avatar for user 'Willard'

Willard | July 25, 2012 at 12:41 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

DeLaRick I'm sorry I mistakenly assumed you would know that I agree with you 100%.addressing the logic fail of prell, asserting that the majority of crimes are commited by latinos in areas that are 40,60 or 80% latino,I wonder why that is?
Obviously we must support Mitt Romney's self-deportation plan to fix this~(sarcasm)
I could not find that quote from EscPolChief,please cite prell.
I guess in some people's eyes, close to 7,000 hate crimes is not a big problem

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | July 25, 2012 at 5:25 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

No problem Willard. I'm not so far gone that I don't consider whether or not KPBS' comments board readers get tired of argumentative posts, mine included. Sadly, there are people in this part of the world who are prejudiced against Mexicans. It doesn't make sense when you look at a map, but that's the world we live in.

Prellmech is entitled to his opinions. By his logic, newspaper editors in Harlem couldn't write about the KKK or other white supremacists until blacks no longer committed the majority of crimes there. Highly projective and self-serving in most people's book. Peace.

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Avatar for user 'Suzanne Marmion'

Suzanne Marmion, KPBS Staff | July 26, 2012 at 1 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

I want to note that our Fronteras Desk project has no agenda other than to serve the many diverse populations of our region. The victim of the hate crime in this story is African American, not Latino. It's true that with the launch of our Fronteras partnership that we have been able to include more stories about Latinos, as well as Somalis, Iraqis, Chinese and other groups that all make up our audience. I am proud that we can include as many people as possible in our region within our coverage.

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Avatar for user 'prellmech'

prellmech | July 27, 2012 at 10:39 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Thank you for your explanation, Suzanne. However, as far as I am aware, your 'Fronteras' Desk includes no reporters of Somali, Iraqi, or Chinese descent. However, there does seem to be an abundance of Latino reporters, such as Adrian Florido, Ruxandra Guidi, Hernan Rosenberg etc. In fact, the Fronteras Desk seems to be composed of non-Latino American females and Latino male & female reporters only. A rather modest way to project 'diversity,' wouldn't you say?

Your report on the tasing death of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas was, in my view, an extremely biased attack on the Border Patrol agents who tried to subdue the subject as he tried to re-enter the U.S. Also, I don't recall if there was mention of the finding that Rojas had methamphedamine in his blood. If there was, I stand corrected. But generally, I find Fronteras Desk reporting to be lacking in scope and objectivity.

There's both good and bad to life on the border. But KPBS' Fronteras reporting omits much that is a consequence of our proximity to, and relationship with, Mexico, such as migrant- and drug-smuggling, border crime, and our never-ending battle to protect our region from Mexican sewage. Covering subjects like these would, I believe, make the Fronteras Desk more relevant and valuable to the diverse communities you serve.

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Avatar for user 'Willard'

Willard | July 27, 2012 at 12:55 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Surprisingly, I did not receive a response from prellmech, It makes one question the veracity of claims.When does blatant racism and 1st amendment cross the line to a vehicle for promoting hate?Oh and 5 kids have just been arrested for an incident at a Jewish summer camp and guess what, they were not Latino

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | July 27, 2012 at 1:29 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Prellmecha, if the fact that Hernandez had meth in his blood, an excuse for excessive force? Just answer me that question.

And will someone please clear it up once and for all, did the incident occur as Herndadez was trying to "re-enter" the United States, as Prellmecha claims, or was it when he was being deported? If it was southbound, as all the video proves, then please stop saying he was trying to "re-enter."

And finally, PRELLmecha, if you paid ANY attention to the Seattle woman's EYEWITNESS account in the PBS documentary, instead of going for another beer, maybe you would reconsider your charges of "bias" toward this outlet. The CBP even snatched a cell phone from her.

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Avatar for user 'prellmech'

prellmech | July 27, 2012 at 3:23 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

You guys crack me up. All I did was respond to the reporter who gave me the company line and you guys go ballistic. Will and Mission, and...(who's the other guy?), I was only making a case for what I remember was once called 'truth in reporting.' I didn't mean to upset you.

I'm sorry, Will, but what was your query? If I failed to answer it was not intentional, but I've been so busy with other attacks that I just may have forgot. I will make a determined effort to answer all your questions in the future.

This is becoming a very long thread, and if you're as tired of it as I am I hope you won't mind if I make the end short and sweet.

Hate crime is intolerable. And in a civilized society, all crime is intolerable. News outlets purporting to serve a 'diverse' community should refrain from injecting social, ethnic, or any other bias into their reporting.

Peace.

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Avatar for user 'Suzanne Marmion'

Suzanne Marmion, KPBS Staff | July 27, 2012 at 3:58 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Missionaccomplished, yes, you are correct that Rojas was being processed for deportation at the time. He had attempted to enter illegally the day before. More here:

Regarding the meth found in his system, an investigation KPBS presented showed it to be a trace amount and not enough to prompt violent behavior.

Prellmech, we do take claims of bias seriously, and welcome any specific concerns you or others have.

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Avatar for user 'prellmech'

prellmech | July 27, 2012 at 5:02 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Well, I'm glad that Mr Rojas didn't have more than a trace amount of meth in his system at the time when he struggled against Border Patrol officers when trying to re-enter the U.S. illegally. Hopefully, Mr Rojas' family now will have an opportunity to sue the U.S. government and BP officers for his mistreatment.

And thanks for taking my claims of bias seriously. I'm very relieved.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | July 27, 2012 at 10:40 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Well there you are, Prellmecha, Hernandez WAS NOT attempting to "re-enter" the US, illegally or otherwise.

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Avatar for user 'Willard'

Willard | July 28, 2012 at 11:01 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Mrs.Marmion did not address Prell's charge of bias of the Fronteras desk concerning how each story should be covered by reporter of appropriate race or gender, seriously this is his charge

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Avatar for user 'Willard'

Willard | July 28, 2012 at 11:03 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Norwegian far-right extremist mass-killer Anders Behring Breivik claimed he was defending Norwegian people." The 22nd July was a preventive attack in defence of my ethnic group, and I cannot acknowledge guilt," he told the court. "http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/norway/9348675/Anders-Breivik-I-was-defending-the-Norwegian-people.htmlThree adults and two juveniles were arrested for terrorizing a Jewish summer camp in Pennsylvania.http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2012/07/five-arrested-for-terrorizing-jewish-summer-camp-numerous-times-video/

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | July 30, 2012 at 7:28 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

The quote "He had attempted to enter illegally the day before" from SM and the linked article seem to contradict the statement "Hernandez WAS NOT attempting to "re-enter" the US, illegally or otherwise" from MA. Is there some other source you are using for your claim MA?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | July 30, 2012 at 8:51 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

WILLARD, I don't know how old you are, obviously you are old enough to run for president, but the local TV media has been doing this for years! I recall as far back as the 1980s, whenever there was a news story related to the then black or Afro-American community, they had a black reporter. If it was Mexican-american related or Mexico-related, it was that fat Hernandez guy with the mustache whom I believe was on Channel 10, later it was Artie Ojeda, etc. So no, the practice is not new. And that in itself is unrelated to any "bias" you or Marmion may be charging.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | July 30, 2012 at 8:52 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

YES! BENZ, READ Suzanne Marmion's post! Please!

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | July 30, 2012 at 1 p.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Reading or, perhaps READing, the post shows me "Missionaccomplished, yes, you are correct that Rojas was being processed for deportation at the time. He had attempted to enter illegally the day before. More here:".
So he was being processed for deportation and he had attempted to illegally enter. How does this not contradict the statement "Hernandez WAS NOT attempting to "re-enter" the US, illegally or otherwise."?

I believe you are seeing something that I am not. What is it?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | July 31, 2012 at 8:36 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

Was he apprehended crossing northward, Benz?

Or in the final analysis, does it matter?

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | July 31, 2012 at 9:39 a.m. ― 2 years, 3 months ago

He was apprehended in a place he was not authorized to be.

I don't think his direction of travel is the salient issue. Do you? if so, why?

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | August 6, 2012 at 10:50 a.m. ― 2 years, 2 months ago

I think the massacre in Wisconsin this past weekend makes a lot of the skinhead apologists' arguments posted here trite and silly.

You're wrong. We have proof. Keep your hate to yourself. Don't get cute.

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