From the Hazleton, PA Standard-Speaker September 14, 2004

Fire Damages Socialist Workers’ Base

Candidates from the party called on the public to condemn the suspected arson attack against their headquarters on Wyoming Street in Hazleton.

by Kent Jackson

Candidates from the Socialist Workers Party called on the public to condemn an arson attack on their headquarters in Hazleton, but said the violence wouldn’t silence them.

“We want to send a message that we’re not intimidated by this,” Tim Mailhot, a Hazleton factory worker and the Socialist candidate for Congress from Pennsylvania’s 11th District, said Monday afternoon at a news conference.

Hazleton police are investigating a fire that started early Saturday at the headquarters, but have not released details of their investigation.

“We began campaigning yesterday. We have the right to discuss the issues in front of us,” Mailhot said Monday.

After talking with police about the fire, Mailhot said a brick attached to or wrapped in flammable materials was thrown through the showroom window of the headquarters at 69 N. Wyoming St.

Fire melted a plastic blind behind the window and slowly burned the window shelf.

A neighbor noticed a strange light in the window about 4:30 a.m. Saturday and summoned city firefighters, who extinguished the fire before it destroyed the headquarters or spread to an upstairs apartment where a family lives, Mailhot said.

On Monday, the headquarters was open but with a section roped off where the window shelf supports burned away and glass lay on the floor. Mailhot said workers would clean up after an insurance inspector saw the damage.

The room smelled of smoke. Soot spread over the white walls and speckled books on shelves of the headquarters, which also is the home of the Pathfinder Books store.

Brian Taylor, a Western Pennsylvania coal miner and party candidate for U.S. Senate, said the burned books represented an attack on the “right of working people to think for themselves.”

“This type of intimidation is designed to shut down the political space we all have,” he said.

Arrin Hawkins, the party’s vice presidential candidate, called on “defenders of political rights around the world” to protest the attack on the headquarters.

Party members asked the public to join them in calling on Hazleton Mayor Louis Barletta to swiftly apprehend and fully prosecute whoever started the fire.

They said they will solicit contributions to repair the fire damage and replace books.

On Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the headquarters, the party members scheduled a meeting that Taylor said will be “a speakout of sorts against these kinds of attacks.”

Monsignor Michael Delaney and the Rev. Douglas McKeeby spoke against the attacks on behalf of the Greater Hazleton Ministerium.

“What makes our nation great is we have the freedom of ideas,” McKeebey said. “We’re in a war on terrorism. We need to take serious these attacks.”