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Arson At Nonprofit That Campaigned For Rent Control Believed To Be Politically Motivated

Arnulfo Brenes, administrative assistant for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment San Diego, walks through the wreckage of a fire, Nov. 12, 2018.
Megan Burks
Arnulfo Brenes, administrative assistant for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment San Diego, walks through the wreckage of a fire, Nov. 12, 2018.

Chula Vista police are investigating an arson fire at the office of a nonprofit that campaigned for rent control. There’s no word yet on a suspect or motive, but community organizers in the county believe it was politically motivated.

Around 11:40 p.m. Friday, someone broke into the Chula Vista office of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, said Christina Livingston, the organization’s statewide director. The person then sprayed an accelerant throughout the office and beneath a table holding pro-Proposition 10 signs, in particular, she said.

The space was full of melted computers, twisted metal and soot Monday as South Bay elected officials and colleagues from groups such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union gathered to offer condolences.

“We are devastated in some ways by the hate against our movement and against the work that we’ve been fighting for,” said ACCE San Diego Director Paola Martinez-Montes. “But if this was an act of intimidation, we will not be stopped.”

VIDEO: Arson At Nonprofit That Campaigned For Rent Control Believed To Be Politically Motivated

Livingston said the statewide umbrella organization for social and racial justice groups often receives threatening messages on social media during campaigns but says they were more aggressive this election.

The group helped tenants mobilize around the statewide proposition to lift restrictions on rent control and a National City measure to establish rent control. Both measures failed.

“The timing of the arson — immediately after a contentious ballot measure that ACCE supported, Prop. 10 and Measure W — is very concerning,” said National City Mayor-elect Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. “Acts of violence like this must be condemned and I call on all our local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate and find those responsible for this heinous act.”

Arnulfo Brenes, administrative assistant for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment San Diego, recovers a postcard and a tchotchke from his desk, Nov. 12, 2018.
Megan Burks
Arnulfo Brenes, administrative assistant for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment San Diego, recovers a postcard and a tchotchke from his desk, Nov. 12, 2018.

Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas called on anyone with information to come forward.

“It is an act of cowardice and it will not be tolerated in the city of Chula Vista,” she said. “I know that our police department is fully engaged in investigating this crime and that perpetrator will be brought to justice.”

A man at the press conference told an ACCE employee a man purchased lighter fluid Friday night at a nearby liquor store. Police were not on hand to detail any other leads.

The incident comes on the heels of a contentious election cycle in which a man was indicted for allegedly mailing pipe bombs to leading Democratic figures and another shot and killed 11 worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Both alleged assailants espoused white nationalist ideologies.

Some believe Friday’s fire is was similarly motivated and immediately set up web pages to collect donations. ACCE is asking that people contribute directly via its website.

Both ACCE and their Chula Vista landlord have insurance, Livingston said.

A declaration from the California Assembly honoring Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment San Diego Director Paola Martinez-Montes survived the fire, Nov. 12, 2018.
Megan Burks
A declaration from the California Assembly honoring Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment San Diego Director Paola Martinez-Montes survived the fire, Nov. 12, 2018.

Arson At Nonprofit That Campaigned For Rent Control Believed To Be Politically Motivated
Chula Vista police are calling a fire that destroyed the San Diego offices of a statewide social justice nonprofit arson.