For months, thousands of East County residents who catch the bus at the lot have been forced to look at nearly two dozen Nazi swastikas along with words such as “HAIL HITLER,” WHITE POWER” and “NIG” that were spray-painted on the railroad cars across the street.
The graffiti might still be there if not for Jaime Cader, an Antioch resident who served on the Contra Costa Human Relations Commission before it was dissolved in 2008. Cader occasionally takes the bus at the Hillcrest stop, saw the graffiti and intended to bring it to the attention of officials at a City Council meeting. He didn’t get around to it, however, until he saw a newspaper article last week about swastikas scrawled on a Sacramento synagogue.
That prompted him to send an e-mail to several city officials on Saturday containing a photo he took a month ago of the swastika-laden train cars in Antioch. “These same train cars have been in the same location in Antioch for months, and I doubt that anyone has complained about them to the Antioch City Council,” said Cader in his e-mail.
In a phone interview Monday, Cader said, “I feel that something like that should not be visible. In my opinion, things like that promote hatred and hateful actions to individuals. Those things should be stopped right away. They should be painted over.”
One of the recipients of his e-mail, Councilwoman Mary Rocha, forwarded it to City Manager Jim Jakel, who fired off the following e-mail Monday morning to Wesley Lujan, director of public affairs for Union Pacific Railroad: “Wes – As you know we have expressed community concerns about the storage of railcars along Highway 4 to you in the past. The graffiti is awful and we still have trouble understanding how UP can’t find less visible areas to store cars, given the thousands of miles of track under UP’s control.
“However, the cars are now tagged with Nazi slogans and symbols. Frankly, that imagery must be removed immediately. Please let me know how that can be accomplished in the most expedient fashion. The communities of East County have been, from my view, very patient and understanding of the economics confronting UP, but this must be addressed quickly. Thank you.”
Cader also forwarded his e-mail to Lujan, who responded Monday afternoon that he had been contacted by a number of officials, is looking into the matter and thanked Cader for bringing the vandalism to his attention. Lujan followed up Tuesday, saying the “tagging” would be removed shortly, and adding, “It is an unfortunate situation that we have to store these rail cars/auto racks. We deeply appreciate the East County communities being patient with the situation. Let’s all hope 2010 provides us with opportunities to put these rail cars back to work.”
The two cars were painted over by railroad workers on Tuesday evening.
East County officials have been complaining for the past couple of years about the visual blight of the railroad cars parked on the little-used Mococo Line, which runs from Bay Point to Tracy. The cars disappeared for a short while last year but have remained in place since then.
Ironically, East County officials may be even more concerned about the solution mentioned by Lujan: putting the rail cars “back to work” when the economy picks up and rail transportation of cargo increases. That’s because the Mococo Line, which has been dormant for the past two decades, crosses several major road intersections in Antioch, Oakley and Brentwood, and will create traffic jams when the trains pass through.
In addition, a significant amount of housing has been constructed near the Mococo Line in the past 20 years. Resumption of rail traffic resulting in perhaps a couple dozen trains passing through day and night will likely result in noise complaints (in addition to the rumbling, the trains are required to blow their whistle when approaching an intersection) and increased concerns about safety.