Mischief Night comes early to Montrose and KPFT/Pacifica Radio

Exclusive to stupido's site by Edwin Johnston, Studio X correspondent @copyleft

In the early morning hours of Friday, October 29, 1999 fire broke out in two separate places at the garage apartment behind KPFT/FM 90.1 on Lovett Blvd. in the Montrose.

The fire destroyed the building which is the former studio of Studio X Media, previous producers of the KPFT program guide. The old publisher of Studio X Media, his wife and newborn child used to reside there in the early 1980's.

Station manager Garland Ganter is trying to play down the fact that this may have something to do with the Houston meeting of the Pacifica national board, who also arrived in Houston on Friday. The board meetings will continue through Sunday. Other employees are more suspicious. On unnamed KPFT employee is quoted in Saturday's front page Houston Chronicle story as saying: "It's a pretty poor way to make a statement."

The local media have focused on the fire, fanning the flames of suspicion. Many TV stations have tied the act to the protests this summer surrounding Garland Ganter's shutting down of sister station KPFA in Berkeley. Footage of street protests in Berkeley from this summer enhanced their stories.

The Houston fire department suspects arson, since the fire was started both upstairs and downstairs. If indeed it was arson, certainly members of the Houston Committee for People's Radio will be suspected. This group began organizing protests against KPFT in July coinciding with the protests in Berkeley and several other Pacifica-related cities. Although no one in that group has ever suggested committing criminal acts, they are a likely target of investigation and perhaps will even be scapegoated.

Other potential suspects may be some of the people who have come down from California and other cities to protest the national board meeting. These people also seem to be unlikely perpetrators.

This leaves some other options. Perhaps right-wingers torched the station. The Ku Klux Klan was suspected of bombing the KPFT transmitter in the 1970's. Or perhaps it was a covert black bag job on the part of the FBI.

A likely scenario: The worst damage was done to the back of the building. This is adjacent to an alley way, which is often a hangout for young people and the homeless in Montrose. Perhaps it is merely a coincidence that KPFT was a target. Maybe some drunks just went a little too wild and hit the building for no particular political reason.

Another scenario: Property owners in the Montrose. Montrose is undergoing severe gentrification. There have been a rash of fires of older buildings here and in the nearby Fourth Ward, which is making way for new buildings. Property owners are suspected in being behind some of the burnings. They are rumored to have paid people to set these fires.

And finally there is the possibility of sympathetic magic. After all, the fire occurred on a Friday, long known as an unlucky day. It also comes at the start of Hallowe'en weekend, known for it's bonfires, Devil Night's and other pagan- inspired celebrations. Apparently Garland wouldn't give the kids a treat, so he got the trick instead.

One never knows, does one?

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