Thursday, February 2, 2006

Herndon, Va., police are trying to determine who spray-painted pro-immigration graffiti outside the home of the local leader of the Minutemen, an illegal-entry watchdog group, police said yesterday.

Police said they received a report Sunday that two messages were found spray-painted on the sidewalk in front of George Taplin’s residence.

One read: “No One is Illegal.” Under a heart-shaped globe, another read: “Love Sees No Borders.”

Police are investigating the graffiti as a destruction-of-property case.

In October, Mr. Taplin founded the Herndon Minutemen, which opposes the town’s use of taxpayer funds for a day-laborer center. The center, in the 1400 block of Sterling Road, opened in December.

The group’s estimated 125 members take photographs or videotape employers hiring day laborers, most of whom are illegal aliens.

The group has given federal and local authorities the names of 16 contractors suspected of breaking business licensing and tax laws.

Police said their investigation into the spray-painting has not produced any suspects.

The incident does not constitute a hate crime because it does not appear to be racially or religiously motivated, and because the perpetrators did not trespass onto Mr. Taplin’s property, said Sgt. Darcy Burns, a town police spokeswoman.

It also does not constitute intimidation because the messages did not urge anyone to change their mannerisms or habits, she said.

“It’s on the public sidewalk; they didn’t enter his property or damage his home,” Sgt. Burns said. “Based on what it is right now, it’s a regular destruction-of-property case.”

Destruction of property is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum 12-month jail sentence and a $2,500 fine.

Minuteman officials said the messages and logo found outside Mr. Taplin’s home are similar to those used by a Herndon group that supports the day-laborer center.

Sgt. Burns said she could not comment on whether those responsible for spray-painting the messages might have been affiliated with a group that opposes the Minutemen.

“We don’t know who would have done it,” she said. “Anything’s possible because no one has come forward with any suspect information.”

Help Save Herndon, a group of residents who support the Minutemen, is offering a reward for information on the case, according to its Web site,

Mr. Taplin said his group will continue to watch operations at the day-laborer center. “The Herndon Minutemen will not be intimidated from exercising our constitutional rights,” he said.

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