Cross burned onto Jewish family's lawn
By Amy Kaufman
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Marcia Liberson of Lake Oswego came home around 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 20, to find a large cross burned across the length of her front lawn with weed killer.
She had spent the day conducting a health-care survey at the gay pride festival on the Portland waterfront for her employer.
"Basically, I am professionally and personally known to champion diversity, and I come back and find this on my lawn," she said.
Liberson, who is a member of P'nai Or, said her home has a mezuzah on the front door and Hanukah signs "that you can see through the windows." She is a member of B'rit Tzedek v'Shalom and said that she had previously displayed a "Shalom Peace" banner outside her home, where she has lived since 1989 with her husband, Herb Salomon, and son Ari, 17.
Liberson said she was "absolutely shocked" to discover the symbol and immediately called the Lake Oswego Police Department. Officer Bryan Witt filed the report; he was not available for comment.
Captain Terry Timeus of the LOPD said police have talked to neighbors and have asked them to report anything suspicious, but so far there are no suspects or leads in the case.
"I can't think of a time since 1986 where anything similar to this has occurred, so it's not like we can look at past suspects, because there have been none," he said. "Lake Oswego is a diverse community; everybody is pretty accepting of everyone else's color, religion, and sexual orientation . . . that's why a lot of people choose to live here." He said the matter is "under investigation."
Timeus said it is "most likely" that the perpetrators burned the 6x10-foot cross into the ground "a week or ten days" ago.
"Most chemical agents don't act that quickly to discolor lawn unless fire was used. For example, Roundup is a common grass killer, readily acquired, and it takes a week or 10 days before the grass actually starts dying," he said.
"Until you develop a suspect, there's really no investigative benefit to finding out what chemical was used," he said, adding that soil tests are extremely expensive. He said he has seen innocuous uses of weed killer to form words, "but I haven't seen it used in an intimidation crime."
Timeus said the LOPD considers this an "intimidation second-degree crime." According to his abbreviated description, this is a crime in which a person "tampers or interferes with property, having no right to do so . . . with the intent to cause substantial inconvenience to another because of the person's perception of the other's race, color, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation."
Timeus has been employed at the LOPD for 19 years, and he said that in his experience, "The only intimidation crimes that come to mind are face-to-face confrontations. . . Nothing comes to mind of crosses or similar events."
Liberman said she insisted that Witt file a report with the FBI.
"The purpose of intimidators or terrorists is to frighten you, and they're meant to be that, and our family refuses to be terrorized," said Liberman. "We're not the only victims here. I think the whole community is victimized when this happens. My non-Jewish neighbors tell me they're terrorized now."
Liberman said the American Jewish Committee has been "very, very helpful."
"It's not the responsibility of the victim to deal with a hate crime," said Susan Abravanel, president of the Portland Chapter of AJC. "It is the responsibility of the community surrounding the victim, and that's the role AJC wants to take--to facilitate the building of that community around them."
Abravanel noted that the Portland chapter of AJC founded the Coalition against Hate Crimes in 1997. Although she said "we see this kind of thing all the time," she described it as a "worst nightmare come true."
"I think it's important not to bury it. That's the way AJC looks at it," said Abravanel.
"We're kind of hopeful that if somebody becomes aware of [this crime] they'll call us," said Timeus. "We'd be happy to take the information." To report tips, call him at the LOPD at 503- 635-0238.