Reason: Police say union workers “almost certainly” torched an under-construction Quaker meetinghouse in northwest Philadelphia four days before Christmas. The Chestnut Hill Friends had hired non-union labor for the project, which discommoded several construction unions.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Vandals with an acetylene torch crept onto the project’s
muddy construction site in the middle of the night. Working out of view
in the meetinghouse’s freshly cemented basement, they sliced off dozens
of bolts securing the bare steel columns and set fire to the building
crane, causing $500,000 in damage.
Police detectives deemed the attack arson because of a series of
confrontational visits from union officials days before the incident.
They say the torch could only have been operated by a trained
professional, and believe it was almost certainly the work of
disgruntled union members. The city has assigned extra investigators to
the case and is working with federal forensic experts to track down the
vandals, said Michael Resnick, the city’s public safety commissioner.
Excerpted from Philly.com: It
was probably back in 1997, though some think it might have been even
earlier, when the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting concluded that it had
outgrown its space and that it was high time to erect a new building.
But because it is not the Quaker way to rush into things, the group
spent a few more years reflecting on whether it should buy land on
Mermaid Lane for the new meetinghouse.
Even after the group sealed the deal in 2003, there was still plenty
more talking and thinking and praying to be done about the undertaking.
There was a “dialogue session” to articulate the group’s “touchstone
values,” then, a year later, a workshop with a facilitator, and, finally
– just to be certain – a retreat for members.
As agonizing as the process was, the result is a trim little design,
faced in traditional Wissahickon schist, that will visibly reflect the
ideals Quakers hold dear, from respect for the environment to plain old
good neighborliness. And yet, in one crucial way,
million project now under construction is also a frank acknowledgment of
real-world conditions: To afford Philadelphia’s first new Quaker
meetinghouse in 80 years, the Chestnut Hill Friends felt their only
option was to employ a nonunion contractor.
And now they are paying the price.
Four days before Christmas, the Friends’ world was rocked by the sort of violence they have devoted their lives to stamping out.