By Hillel Aron
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“It’s a brilliant concept,” says Greene unashamedly. “Even though Deborah is not entirely involved, the idea is that she would be very upset and she’ll call Antonio and say, ‘Why do I have to suffer for something you’re not doing?’ There’s a hope that she’ll apply pressure on him, or he would feel guilty for what’s happening to his sister.”
Greene, who lives in North Hollywood and describes herself as “one of the most prominent animal-rights activists” in Los Angeles, has marched in front of Villar’s home with others as they shouted their disgust into bullhorns. Villar never replied to e-mails seeking comment, but Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore confirmed that an unknown assailant or assailants poured a “corrosive” on Villar’s car and splattered red paint on steps leading to her home, creating total damage worth $3,500. The attack, says Whitmore, occurred sometime between midnight and 7 a.m. on November 13, and Greene believes the Cat and Dog Liberation Army is a “new [underground] cell.”
“It is probably a group that doesn’t want to call themselves Animal Liberation Front,” says Greene.
No one has been arrested in the Villar case, according to Whitmore, and the written threat against the mayor “has not been labeled a crime,” says Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Mike Downing, assistant commanding officer of the Counter Terrorism Intelligence Center Bureau. The City Attorney’s Office, which advised the LAPD, would not comment on the threat because of “potential litigation,” spokesman Nick Velasquez told the Weekly. The Mayor’s Office has remained silent as well.
Greene says the threat was merely someone acting out. “That, to me, is not advocating [violence]. The activists are just expressing their anger. They’re expressing their moral outrage.”
Segal doesn’t let her off so easily. “That sounds like somebody who doesn’t want to take responsibility for inciting violence,” he says. “Language is not just a way to spout off. People take language very seriously in this movement.”
Downing, who is working with the Sheriff’s Department, describes the attack on Villar’s home as an act of “domestic terrorism.” “They are striking fear into the hearts of innocent civilians by committing crime,” says the deputy chief.
Some weeks ago, activists picketed a home they identified as that of Villaraigosa chief of staff Robin Kramer, and a much more recent “tertiary” target has been Maria Blackman, the ex-wife of Villaraigosa’s deputy chief of staff, Jimmy Blackman, whose duties include overseeing Los Angeles Animal Services. Greene says activists have routinely protested at her home in the Valley over the past six months, unfurling a large banner that read “Animal Killer in Your Neighborhood.” On November 27, the Animal Liberation Front boasted in a communiqué, also posted on the North American Animal Liberation Press Office’s Web site, that they “paint strippered” a car in front of Maria Blackman’s residence four days earlier.
The LAPD says the solvent-pouring incident did not happen. “That’s a false claim,” asserts Downing. Jimmy Blackman has refused several requests by the Weekly to specifically comment on the alleged attack, and Greene says, “[Law enforcement] will lie about an action, saying it took place at the wrong address. They want to make the Animal Liberation Front look like idiots.”
Asked if the suspects in the various cases will be hard to find, Downing replies, “We have incredibly skilled investigators, and we have a very robust investigation. We are taking it extremely seriously.” Both Downing and Sheriff’s spokesman Whitmore, citing a need to be discreet, declined to say if police have beefed up security around the mayor, his sister’s home or Maria Blackman’s home.
Greene doesn’t expect the late-night attacks to end anytime soon. “If all of this abuse [of animals] continues and law enforcement keeps the pressure on us,” the spokeswoman says, “all indications show that these actions are not only going to continue but increase.”
Los Angeles, in other words, may be facing a very troublesome new year.