Vandalism Hits Oakland City Council Race, Tempers Flare

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 02:19:00 PM

In a campaign that has grown increasingly heated as it moves towards the June 3 election day showdown, vandals struck at the Fruitvale-area campaign headquarters of 5th District Council candidate Mario Juarez last Friday night, smashing windows and window doors and causing an estimated $15,000 in damage. 

Juarez is challenging longtime incumbent and Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente. 

Juarez said he had left the campaign office at 40th Avenue and International Boulevard about an hour before the 10:30 p.m. attack. Two campaign workers were in the building but did not view the attacker or attackers, who have not yet been identified. 

In a press release sent out Saturday morning, the Juarez campaign said that “running for a seat to displace an incumbent on the Oakland City Council can be a dangerous thing. … This was just the latest in a series of threatening and intimidating actions since Mario began running.” 

Those actions include the posting of an anonymous website charging Juarez with personal and professional improprieties, as well as the posting of a YouTube video by a woman claiming to be a former staff member at Juarez’ realty office, claiming that Juarez demanded she commit illegal acts during the course of business, and punched and kicked her when she refused to comply.  

In addition, Juarez said that early in the campaign, he received anonymous mailed letters “threatening my personal safety and advising me not to run for office.” He said that he had not thought it necessary at the time to turn the letters over to Oakland police, but has retained the letters. 

“This is very serious,” Juarez said in a telephone interview late Friday night. “It’s very serious for me, for my family, and for my staff. We have been running a campaign based on ideas and proposals on how to move Oakland forward. But it’s clear that the threats that were made about my candidacy were very real.” 

In a telephone interview this week, De La Fuente said that his own campaign headquarters in the Fruitvale Transit Village was the subject of vandalism, a smashed window in early April. De La Fuente said that he “hope(d)” that the vandalism— at his office and at Juarez’—“is not significant. I think for some reason the rhetoric in this campaign is getting to people. I think we should go back to the business of the campaign, which is on the issues, and who can best serve the people of the 5th District and Oakland.”  

Referring to the vandals, he said that “if people have that much energy, they should go out and work the precincts for their candidates.” 

Oakland Police Department Public Information Officer Roland Holmgren said that the OPD has assigned a sergeant to investigate the vandalism, but could not provide any more details because it is an ongoing investigation.  

“We’re taking it very seriously,” Holmgren said. He added that police were aware that video street surveillance cameras have been installed on International Boulevard near the Juarez campaign headquarters, and that OPD was following up to see if there is a videotape of the Saturday night attack.