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Brutal Attack Spurs Worries of Racial Backlash

OC Human Relations urges whites and Hispanics to unite against violence after a brawl that left a San Clemente man in a coma.

Amid rumblings of possible racial overtones to a Jan. 6 , a county group is urging calm and unity.

"This is not a brown-white issue," said Rusty Kennedy, executive director of OC Human Relations, which works to prevent racial violence and foster ethnic understanding and tolerance. "It's an issue of violent gangsters."

Three Hispanic men -- including two allegedly affiliated with the Varrio Chico criminal gang in San Clemente -- have been charged with attempted murder and assault for allegedly beating three white men, one of whom was fighting for his life late Tuesday after being bashed in the head with a brick.

The motives behind the attack remain unclear, but racially charged rumblings in some parts of the white community have already begun in comments posted on Patch and other media outlets. Some in the city's Hispanic community----fear a possible backlash.

OC Human Relations is a nonprofit that works closely with community groups and the Orange County Sheriff's Department to defuse tensions among the county's varied ethnic groups. It has a strong presence in San Clemente, largely through .

Rose Velasquez--no relation to the Gilberto Velazquez accused in the crime--is a community organizer for OC Human Relations. She runs a youth group and other civic programs in the largely Hispanic Las Palmas neighborhood where she also lives.

"I spoke with a group of youth that I work with [about the crime]," she said. "They said other kids were going to tease them and hold them responsible. These are seventh-graders. I told them, 'You just do your best, you work hard and make the right choices.'

"Our whole plan is to have these kids get along with the Caucasian kids, and for them not to be racist either--like, 'Oh, those white kids...' We want to integrate the Hispanic community."

A History of Gangs

More than four years ago, the D.A.'s office persuaded a judge to impose gang injunctions over large swaths of central San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. The legal designation means gang members identified on a Sheriff's Department list face curfews and restrictions on clothing, association with others on the list and other rules.

Velasquez said many of San Clemente's Hispanic residents welcomed the injunction, although there was some backlash in San Juan Capistrano.

"When we did one-on-one interviews with [Las Palmas] parents three years ago--started knocking on doors--the No. 1 concern was 'How do I help my child so they don't become involved with gangs,' " Velasquez said.

Thanks to the injunction, combined with work by the sheriff's Gang Reduction and Intervention Program, OC Human Relations and the city of San Clemente, gang-related crime in town has drastically dropped over the past three years, officials said.

The idea behind all these organizations working together is to provide a community that faces language and socioeconomic barriers with tools to help get rid of crime in their area. The consensus among law enforcement professionals is that in neighborhoods with gang problems, it's often a small minority of criminals who end up terrorizing the majority of law-abiding residents.

Still Simmering

Despite the injunction, community meetings with law enforcement, community councils, youth groups, tutoring and extracirricular activites, the gang problem in San Clemente never went completely underground.

Just last year, as outlined in , nuisance crimes involving Varrio Chico and a local white power gang have continued.

"Members of the Varrio Chico San Clemente (VCSC) street gang, San Clemente Boys (SCB), a group loosely affiliated with white pride groups, a large population of narcotics users and a large population of subjects on active probation and parole frequent The Triangle [downtown bar district]," the grant application states.

"These bars attract the sales of narcotics, which primarily consist of heroin and methamphetamine. Narcotics sales cause altercations between VCSC and SCB gang members."

Stopping the Cycle

The trick to stamping out these problems is to offer other options to children when they're young--before high school, Velasquez said.

When OC Human relations received its first grant to work in San Clemente, organizers tried to start youth groups in San Clemente High School. They found limited success there. But once Velasquez started working with seventh-graders at Shorecliffs Middle School, her .

The Capistrano Unified School District, church groups and local businesses have also helped to make a concerted effort to stamp out kids' desire to join gangs.

Those who allegedly perpetrated the Jan. 6 attack ranged in age from 23 to 29--and two already have violent criminal backgrounds--are beyond the reach of schools or most community groups.

"They're full-grown men," Velasquez said. "You can't help everyone...[but] the kids don't want to be involved in this. They're actually taking the opportunities."

Wow January 18, 2012 at 06:30 PM
This is absolute garbage. "Oh, I'm so sorry we misinterpreted the racism in the Hispanic community! Of course, us racist white folks just don't understand. " You can't lead a community if all you do is contribute turning things into an us vs. them issue, and not having any understanding of how the Caucasians in America view the situation is bound to be a serious impediment. This article is nothing more than another example that white people are expected to be utterly defenseless against the Hispanic community thanks to the ability to play the race card. Instead of ordering us around on how to feel about people illegally entering the country, playing the race card to stay, and then contributing to a trend that now shows Caucasians singled out as the overwhelming victims of violence, maybe you should make a feeble attempt to understand the community you are trying to communicate with. White democrates used to be so common the state was actually well known for them. Congratulations, Rasmussen, Ipsos and other polls show over and over again that people like you have ended that trend permanently, and can read an article like this and see clearly what is really going on.
Wow January 18, 2012 at 06:45 PM
What you said is untrue, and no one is buying it anymore. The Hispanic community has a problem with racism. Whites used to have a massive problem with it, but now we're called "racist" even if we just want to live in our own communities without permitting anyone that wants to move in with us. Only a tiny, minute portion of the white population falls for the 90's style snarky liberal crap. We've seen that this community has a problem with racism, with violence, and with how it views and interacts with the world, and blaming white people for it isn't just stupid, it's counter productive. Everyone knows that white power crime groups are less than 1% of the prison population and harping on such a small, no longer respected group does not lend your racist, extremely ethnically insecure garbage any credence. We just want to be left alone.
Wow January 18, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Mr. Townsend, it's epitome of disingenuousness to point out you didn't mention violence or racism. Just what is this fearsome "racial backlash" supposed to be? Intemperate critique at a country-club luncheon? Because that's as far as it will go. There is a myth in media that non-whites are forever besieged by phantom Klansmen, that lynching still is prevalent, that racism is as virulent as ever. You've never witnessed a lynching, Mr. Townsend; you've never encountered a Klan member. ...Neither have I. Look. Nobody but partisan squeaky wheels will accuse you of racism for simply telling the truth: Three white teenagers were set upon and beaten senseless by Hispanic gangsters. There. Now, look out your window. Do you see honkie nightriders prowling the streets, spoiling for vengeance? ...You won't This one statement counters the article utterly. You can't walk out of your front door in my community without being called a cracker. Children are picked on in public and "Magnet Schools" that are designed to attract mixed ethnic groups become prisons for white students, who are constantly barraged with garbage like this. Please stop writing this crap. When only one ethnic group (hispanics) show any support for this viewpoint and you actually have the gall to point out minute white pride organizations that even whites dislike, all you are doing is encouraging whites to tune you out.
Joe April 12, 2012 at 03:02 AM
About 0.00000000000000000001% of white people are in a street or prison gang. about 99.9999999999999999999999% of non-white people seem to want to be in a non-white street or prison gang or associate with one imo. Seems to be a clear cut difference in values to me. This is why whites don't want to be around non-whites.
SAM July 27, 2012 at 06:18 AM
SAN CLEMENTE IS ALL FULL OF TWEEKERS!!!! WHITE OR MEXICAN THEY ALL ARE DRUGIES!

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