An estimated 100 people demonstrated in front of the Santa Barbara News-Press offices Thursday night, just hours after the historic building was hit by vandals who spray painted slogans and fired paint ball splotches against a window.
Santa Barbara Police said damage estimates of almost $1,500 to the building and sidewalks nearby make the crime a potential felony, if anyone responsible for the damage was arrested.
Clean-up crews began power-washing the side of the newspaper building to remove graffiti Thursday morning. Sidewalks had yet to be cleaned as of Thursday night.
The vandalism came several days after a Saturday front page article in the News-Press on the new law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The article included a photo of people at a DMV office with the headline “Illegals Line Up for Driver’s Licenses.”
A petition on the website change.org demanded the newspaper retract the story and apologize to the community for what was called “hateful and racist language.” As of Thursday, 2,500 had supported the petition. A spot check of the petition indicated the majority of supporters were from outside Santa Barbara County.
Thursday afternoon, News-Press Director of News Operations Don Katich released this statement:
“It has been the practice for nearly 10 years at the Santa Barbara News-Press to describe people living in this country illegally as “illegals” regardless of their country of origin. This practice is under fire by some immigration groups who believe that this term is demeaning and does not accurately reflect the status of “undocumented immigrants,” one of several terms other media use to describe people in the Unites States illegally.
You have to look no further than the White House website to see the term “illegal” used when describing the 2 million illegal immigrants President Obama has deported since taking office for being in the U.S. illegally.
It is an appropriate term in describing someone as “illegal” if they are in this country illegally.
The colossal mess that describes the U.S. immigration policy is a product of unenforced laws, conflicting legislation, unsecured borders, executive action and political pandering. However the most egregious aspect of the U.S. immigration condition is the appearance of lawlessness that subjects millions of people living in this country illegally as pawns in a never-ending game of political posturing.
The outrage voiced by immigration advocates should be directed at the current immigration system that takes years of bureaucratic red tape to complete. This outrage is shared by those who go through the process legally and stand at the end of the line of those who skirt U.S. law.
Ours is a system of laws, a system so valued that people from around the world – including many from lawless nations – flock here to be a part of it. The United States of America affords those seeking it a lawful immigration process; it also affords the politically persecuted a haven from persecution. With this freedom comes responsibility. As history has shown, some choose to wait out the process, while others choose to come here on their own terms. The latter are illegal in the eyes of this valued system and the Santa Barbara News-Press calls them so.
When breaking the law becomes the norm, America is no better than other lawless nations.”
At Thursday night’s demonstration, protestor Anthony Rodriguez criticized the newspaper’s policy.
“That word is ridiculous. Uncalled for. You need to understand we don’t degrade people. We’re all human beings,” Rodriguez said.
Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Cathy Murillo attended the rally in support of the protestors.
“It’s energizing people. We need to have respect for our immigrant families in the city of Santa Barbara. The economy runs on the service workers. They deserve more respect than the headline,” Murillo said.
The group staged a peaceful walk down State Street after about an hour in front of the newspaper’s offices. Demonstrators told reporters they would return on January 19 if there was no retraction or change in policy.
Earlier in the week, critics referred to a “Stylebook” from the Associated Press, used by some news agencies for wording, grammar and language guidelines on published material. In 2013, the Stylebook advised writers to stop using the word “illegal” when referring to an undocumented immigrant.
A posting of the change on the AP website said “The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”
The AP Stylebook is advisory only and it is not uncommon for news organizations to set their own editorial policies.
The News-Press has published Letters to the Editor both against and in support of the original article.
Santa Barbara Police continue to investigate the vandalism, with no arrests made to date.Slideshow: Protestors Rally Against Santa Barbara News-Press