At two recent speaking engagements before Contra Costa Democratic clubs, folks repeatedly asked me why the Times had not written about the legal fate of the woman who kicked down a Lafayette Iraq war memorial sign.
By way of background, area peace activists obtained the permission of landowners Johnson and Louise Clark to install more than 300 white crosses and a sign detailing the Iraq war costs in human lives on a parcel along Deer Hill Road.
On Nov. 14, Jean Bonodio, in front of a news photographer, “kicked the wood sign until it fell in pieces to the ground,” according to the Contra Costa Times story.
Granted, Democrats at the gatherings where I spoke are highly sympathetic to the anti-war message.
But regardless of one’s political views of the war, Bonodio walked onto private property and took down a sign that did not belong to her. (Bonodio later told the Lafayette City Council and news reporters that she didn’t know it was private property.)
So, why hasn’t she been charged with a crime?
Lafayette Police Chief Mike Fisher has been asked the same question, too. He says he can’t do anything unless someone files a formal complaint against Bonodio.
“If a victim came forward and said, ‘We want a report,’ then we would write a report and submit it to the District Attorney’s Office,” Fisher said. “As of Nov. 30, I don’t have a report … Without a victim, it’s difficult to proceed on these matters.”
Yes, Bonodio may have trespassed and vandalized private property, and perhaps more importantly, she also trampled on her fellow citizens’ right to free speech.
But we should forgive her passionate, albeit excessive, impulse just as we forgive the millions of U.S. citizens who have been arrested in acts of civil disobedience throughout our history.
No permanent harm was done and if nothing else, her actions brought national publicity to this little hillside of crosses in Lafayette.