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Sept. 11 Memorial in La Habra Becomes a Focal Point for Clashing War Views

March 13, 2003|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

Dozens of supporters rallied Wednesday around a La Habra sidewalk memorial to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks after antiwar protesters burned U.S. flags there over the weekend.

In a related incident, a woman who reportedly claimed responsibility for the flag burning was placed under citizen's arrest late Tuesday by the Whittier woman who has maintained the shrine since September 2001.

The memorial in recent weeks also had become a place for people to show support for U.S. troops who may be sent to Iraq. Witnesses told police that several people put up antiwar posters over the weekend, which memorial tenders took down.

Witnesses told officers that three or four people put up an antiwar poster Saturday and one on Sunday, both of which were removed, La Habra police spokeswoman Cindy Knapp said.

The acts of vandalism occurred Saturday when patriotic posters and displays were damaged or destroyed, and again early Sunday when several small U.S. flags were found burned, witnesses told police.

When the vandalism was first reported by the Whittier Daily News on Monday, people who had passed by the memorial every day without stopping for 18 months began turning out in force, bringing more flags and posters to put up on the chain-link fence surrounding an RV storage yard on Whittier Boulevard, just west of Beach Boulevard.

Then Tuesday evening, according to a police report, Jennifer Quintana arrived at the site and told about 30 people gathered there that she had burned several of the flags and had put up an antiwar poster.

Knapp said witnesses told officers that Quintana argued with Tracey Chandler, who has tended the display since people first started contributing to it shortly after Sept. 11. Authorities were called and Quintana, Chandler and some witnesses were taken to the police station for interviews.

Afterward, Quintana, 19, was placed under citizen's arrest by Chandler and an unidentified man, both of whom alleged she had assaulted them. Quintana was booked on suspicion of assault and battery and released.

On Wednesday, Knapp said officers are investigating the vandalism incidents and that charges may follow. Police declined to disclose where Quintana lives, citing concerns for her safety, although they did not know of any threats against her.

Chandler said Wednesday she has spent more than $300 on the U.S. flags she places on the fence. Over the months, she said others, including children, also have put up flags, messages and other patriotic displays.

Patriotism, pure and simple, is what motivates her, said Chandler. "I didn't know anybody who died in the [World Trade Center] towers, and I don't know anybody who's in the armed forces," she said. "I did it as a sign of respect for the victims and love for my country. It all started with a sign that said, 'We will never forget."

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