Police at Pasadena City College in Southern California say they have no suspects in the theft of 5,000 copies of the campus newspaper despite a claim by students identifying themselves as members of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan – MEChA – saying they were responsible.
The theft, which occurred a week ago, was first noticed by distribution manager Kris Calnon while on his way to the Campus Courier’s office. An empty newsstand that he had held 300 papers only two hours before caught his eye.
“I gave it three bundles,” he said. “It usually takes a day and a half to empty.”
According to Calnon, 10 minutes later, a student came to the office to say he had seen a man grab a stack of papers from the women’s gym and carry it onto the men’s gym.
While Calnon left to investigate, Courier photographer Daniel Lottes stayed behind. A few minutes later, four or five people entered the office carrying large black garbage bags.
“When they first walked in I thought they were bringing something in from the event [going on across the hall],” he said.
When a woman placed one of the bags on the table near his equipment, Lottes said he thought nothing of it.
“Oh, let me move my camera,” he said.
The woman handed him a letter, saying, “This is for the Courier staff – it will explain everything in the letter.”
The letter accompanying over 2,000 torn copies of the Courier read:
We were very dissapointed at the lack of coverage based on our high school conference. It has dishearted us to see no full length article, and a photo that did not represent our program.
Months of hard work went into our high school conference, and it was our hope to see recognition of our hard work in the campus newspaper.
We see this as a representitive example of the attitude the Campus Courier has toward higher education, and towards MEChA.
As students of P.C.C., we can not accept this issue of the Campus Courier.
Courtesy of Pasadena Campus Courier
MEChA, founded at U.C. Santa Barbara in 1969, has been accused of being a racist group by its critics who point to the organzation’s stated goal of returning the American Southwest to Mexico.
Pasadena’s MEChA members – there are 15 to 20 – insist their group is like other campus clubs, with the stated purpose to “bring awareness about Chicano issues to the public, and to promote community solidarity.”
“MEChA came up to the Courier with, like, four trash bags full of newspapers with a note attached and said we weren’t covering them properly, so this is what we get,” news chief Dean Lee told the Pasadena Star.
A Courier reporter had covered a MEChA event for the edition that was stolen. Space constraints, however, resulted in only a photograph and caption being published.
“They said it was racist and biased,” Lee said.
Prof. James Aragon, one of MEChA’s campus advisers, said he had no knowledge of any member’s involvement, but it was too soon to blame MEChA because the investigation was still under way.
“No adviser would ever condone any type of behavior that is illegal,” he said.
MEChA has been accused before of stealing newspaers at other colleges.
In 2002, MEChA was implicated in the theft of thousands of copies of conservative newspapers at U.C. Berkeley and U.C. Davis after articles critical of the organization were printed.
MEChA members were accused of taking 7,500 copies of the campus paper at the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley and returning them in garbage bags.
“What once started as something of a college prank has become a genuine problem for student media,” Mike Heistand, legal consultant at the Student Press Law Center, said. People see taking the free papers as an effective way of “preventing the message from getting out they don’t want to get out.”