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HOLLYWOOD : Vandals Trample Memorial at School

June 15, 1995|CAROL CHASTANG

After spending several days digging in the dirt, planting flowers and erecting a plywood trellis at Gardner Street Elementary School in Hollywood, parents were disappointed by the scene that greeted them Sunday morning.

Chrysanthemums and Angel Trumpet flowers that had been planted in a garden honoring the Oklahoma City bombing victims lay strewn on the nearby concrete, ripped up by the roots. The trellis had been knocked down and broken into three pieces.

"I was devastated," said Brian Marquez, a kindergarten teacher. "What kind of people would find pleasure in destroying something this beautiful?"

About 400 students had contributed to the garden project by donating money, sometimes 15 or 20 cents, and planting flowers.

Celia Ripke the school's principal, said students were saddened when they saw the trampled garden Monday morning. Only six rosebushes were spared, probably "because they have thorns," said Gina Thomas, a parent who helped organize the garden. The rosebushes were donated by pop singer Michael Jackson, Thomas said.

Meanwhile, Ripke said a student told school officials he saw three teen-age boys entering the school the day of the vandalism. The student, who is Russian, said the three suspects also spoke Russian.

After calling Los Angeles police, who told her the property damage was too small to merit an investigation, Thomas called the school police. The culprits remain at large.

Parent volunteers and students went to work at 7:30 a.m. Monday to sweep up the dirt, put the trellis back together and replant the uprooted plants. "Some of the plants are dying now, but some might live," Thomas said.

Later that day, students and parents planted new flowers in the garden.

The school plans to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for "The Love [Let Our Violence End] Garden" Monday morning.

"They can break the plants, " said Thomas, "but they won't break the kid's spirits."

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