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Re-Enactors: Holmes coldcocks Hart.

The Fly

Cops and Rob

As The Fly breakfasted at a west-side hotel on Tuesday, the kind of dive our editors spring for when they are feeling extra-generous, in walked a young woman wearing a large jacket, knit cap and pained expression on her face, looking as if she'd just missed her ride.

Seconds later, two San Jose police officers jogged through the dining room. "She went out that door," somebody informed. Minutes later, five officers entered Room 201, pistols drawn. They told whomever they were looking for to give themselves up, but nobody was in the room.

So we went back to reading the paper, from whence we learned from our local daily that our men in blue have a new boss. (NBC 11 reported the leak evening before.) Obviously somebody knows how the council will vote next Tuesday even before the dais lights are counted. We assume, of course, that this was never discussed privately, because here in California we have a law called the Brown Act, which prevents secret meetings, even serial discussions that add up to a meeting.

Four hours later on City Hall's fourth floor, City Manager Del Borgsdorf introduced Rob Davis to dozens of reporters and TV cameramen. Davis is the 46-year-old career policeman tapped by Borg and Mayor Ron Gonzales to replace San Diego defectee Bill Lansdowne as police chief. With thin cheeks, a prominent nose and a red power necktie, Davis could easily pass for a corporate attorney or a member of the California Assembly. With an English degree from San Jose State (Davis says he prefers American authors like Steinbeck), Davis could be the literary heir to published novelist Joe McNamara, San Jose's legendary ex-police chief, who now holds court at the Hoover Institution.

Borgy said Davis, who speaks Spanish, got the job because he could be sensitive to the Police Department's diversity and had enough experience to manage the city's biggest department. Davis, in turn, said all the right things. Would he review the department's use of deadly force? The City Council was already doing that. Was he willing to heal a rift between the city and the Vietnamese community? Yes, he was more than willing. What about gang violence? It was up, but only slightly. What about the weekend crowd that has to run a gauntlet of cops when they want to go clubbing? The city has a lot of investment downtown it has to protect. But he is willing to sit down to talk about anything.

Flyboy managed to be on the wall both during the press conference and the impromptu chase scene on the day this first column went to press. And like our predecessor, we'll keep our eye on things. Email us at [email protected] if there's anything we should know about.

Labor Life

The sudden passing of Loyd Williams, plumber and long-time head of the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 393, brought with it a gathering of some of labor's biggest names to pay their respects. Among them were Ray Lancaster, Williams' recently anointed successor at Local 393; John Neece, the former Building and Trades leader; and, in a quiet return to San Jose, the powerful ex-labor boss Amy Dean, who left San Jose in July to write a book about the employee advocacy nonprofit, Working Partnerships USA, she founded in 1995. Williams, who died on Dec. 28, had also served as treasurer on the executive board of the South Bay Labor Council. In fact, he chaired the labor council's last meeting before it recessed for the holidays.

December had been a busy month for the 62-year-old Williams. He resigned his position as manager, effective Jan. 14, after engineering an early-December landslide victory for Lancaster. About a week later, a disgruntled former accountant served the labor council with a wrongful-termination lawsuit. To many in the labor movement, Williams was considered a teacher, a point which, Fly hears, Dean herself reflected on during the services. He was born in New Mexico, moved to San Jose as an infant and started picking prunes not long after he started walking. Before turning 20, he became an apprentice plumber and, when he died, had served Local 393 for 43 years. "He was really a forward thinker; he had a great local union," Neece adds. "He was one of the first reps that I met in 1974, and he was very helpful. Just a generally nice guy, who really cared for his membership."

Let's Do Lynch

On Thursday, Nov. 9, 1933, 22-year-old Brooke Hart climbed into his daddy's brand new Studebaker President and disappeared in the night. Two weeks later, his body was discovered in San Francisco Bay, about three miles south of the San Mateo Bridge, where Hart had been thrown into the bay.

Police collared two San Jose men, Jack Holmes and Thomas H. Thurmond, whose motive for the kidnapping and death was the ransom they hoped Hart's wealthy family would pay for Brooke Hart. Fourteen hours after the department store heir's body was discovered, a crowd of 2,000 gathered at the county jail behind the old courthouse on First Street. The vigilantes had a battering ram and a garden hose, which they used to douse tear gas canisters police lobbed at them. Holmes and Thurmond were escorted across the street into St. James Park, where they were strung up and strangled, Thurmond in a mulberry tree, Holmes in an elm. Pictures of their nude bodies ran in Oakland's Post Enquirer the next day.

The lynchings have been the subject of a book, Swift Justice, by former Mercury News reporter Harry Farrell. Now they are the subject of a soon-to-be released documentary by first-time filmmaker Michael Azzarello, a San Jose native who heard the lynching story from his grandfather, Anthony. Anthony Azzarello was a young boy who was among those who witnessed the Thurmond and Holmes executions.

Six years in the making, Night Without Justice was filmed in June in San Jose, Los Angeles and Los Gatos for $17,000. Azzarello completed the project for his thesis at Columbia College in Hollywood, where he attended film school.

He recruited 100 actors to play the mob scene, some of whom were outfitted in costumes rented from Universal Studios. The Santa Clara Valley chapter of the Model A Ford Club of America lent eight cars to the project. Part of Santa Cruz Avenue and the Alma Bridge were closed off for shooting.

The finished product is a 21-minute film that can be obtained at the end of the month from the website of Azzarello's production company, Granite Falls Productions. (Azzarello was unsure what he intends to charge for a DVD copy.)

There's also a chance Night Without Justice will be seen at this year's Cinequest film festival. Azzarello was scheduled to meet with organizers later this week.

His hope is to eventually earn enough money to film a full-length feature of the lynchings. "Most people can't believe something like this happened in San Jose," says Azzarello, who turns 23 this month. "Nobody talks about it any more."

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From the January 8-14, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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