Eugene: SUV covered in anti-oil, pro-occupation graffiti and set on fire

From RegisterGuard. October 14, 2011.

Perhaps the people responsible for torching a graffiti-­covered Toyota 4-Runner in west Eugene on Wednesday night really did want to send a political message.

But at this point, police say they don’t know who set the fire or why they did it — despite the fact that the burned sport utility vehicle was covered with miscellaneous graffiti that included an anarchist symbol and messages consistent with those of the nation­wide “Occupy” movement protesting economic inequities.

Eugene police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin said it would be “unfair to blame any one group” for the arson.

“The graffiti is all over the map,” she said.

Eugene firefighters rushed to the corner of West 13th Avenue and Grant Street just after 9 p.m. Wednesday and found the red SUV engulfed in flames. Police arrived at the scene a short time later and determined that the blaze had been set intentionally. The damage was estimated at $5,000.

Before lighting the vehicle on fire, someone had used white paint to scrawl onto the vehicle a number of messages that included “Occupy Eugene,” “99%,” “Oil is Bad” and “No Exxon” — along with an anarchist symbol and a profanity directed toward Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, police said.

Piercy said she spoke Thursday with police about the fire, and added that she hopes authorities track down the people behind the “dangerous” incident.

“Of course I don’t like to see hateful graffiti aimed at me or anyone else,” Piercy said. “Especially when it is linked to a violent act such as this one.”

Meanwhile, organizers with Occupy Eugene — an offshoot of the national movement that last month began staging demonstrations on Wall Street — were quick to distance their group from the arson.

Occupy Eugene spokeswoman Crystal Stanford said the group is part of “a peaceful movement” that does not condone violence or property destruction.

“My first thought (upon hearing of the SUV fire) was that people would think that we were on the fringe,” Stanford said. “We’re a populist movement, and our values are consistent with the values of the everyday, normal person.”

She added that group members “love the mayor. Kitty Piercy is on our team.”

While he said he had no idea who might be responsible for the fire, Eugene author and anarchist John Zerzan said he is certain anarchists are participating in “Occupy” events locally and elsewhere, and that their beliefs differ greatly from “peaceniks” who “never want to get off the sidewalk.”

“Some people want to take (the movement) in a militant direction, and some don’t,” Zerzan said.

Police continue to investigate the arson case.

McLaughlin said the 4-Runner’s most recent registered owner — who does not live in Eugene — sold it about a year ago.

She said investigators did not want to publicly identify the person to whom it was sold.

Police have not spoken with any witnesses who saw the fire being set.

Neighbors on Thursday said they did not recognize the vehicle as belonging to anyone in the area.

In 2000, a pair of self-proclaimed anarchists in Eugene set fire to three SUVs at the former Romania truck lot off Franklin Boulevard.

The two men, Jeffrey Luers and Craig Marshall, later pleaded guilty to arson charges and went to prison.

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