ECO-VANDALISM

Hummer Fans' Convoy of Compassion

John Duchaj, left, Aquilino Carpella and Kevin Koldaro check out the undercarriage of one of the Hummers at a rally in Bethesda, held to show support for a D.C. man after his Hummer was vandalized last month.
John Duchaj, left, Aquilino Carpella and Kevin Koldaro check out the undercarriage of one of the Hummers at a rally in Bethesda, held to show support for a D.C. man after his Hummer was vandalized last month. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)
By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 6, 2007

In the days since eco-vandals smashed and gashed his Hummer, Gareth Groves has become a reluctant symbol.

Carbon-neutral zealots have called him a narcissist, a polluter, a small man. "If you want to drive a Hummer, go to Iraq," one detractor told the 32-year-old District resident.

Others, including Hummer enthusiasts and people annoyed by what they see as self-righteous environmentalism, have offered sympathy, support, even space in their garage for the crippled H2. A group of Hummer drivers gathered yesterday afternoon outside the Vegas Bar and Grill in Bethesda, a gesture of support that Groves appreciates but could have lived without.

"Messing up the truck -- that's just a little low," said Sam Massa, a teenage Hummer driver from Clifton who learned of Groves's misfortune in a text message from his mother.

"I saw the pictures, and it was ridiculous," Massa said. "And I've been keyed three or four times on my truck."

Groves doesn't fancy himself a Hummer activist. A neighbor talked him into calling The Washington Post about the July 16 incident, in which two masked men broke his windows, slit his tires and carved the message "FOR THE ENVIRON" into the silver-gray body.

D.C. police initially investigated the case, but Groves said officers told him that the FBI had taken it over as a suspected incident of eco-terrorism.

"Everybody seems a lot more angry about what happened than I am," Groves said.

He bought the Hummer this summer to fit the image of a sports marketing business he was trying to launch. His old Nissan Pathfinder didn't suit the stature of a man claiming to represent Washington Redskins players; Groves felt he needed something more splashy.

It was to be his second car. Groves said he knew better than to negotiate a massive sport-utility vehicle in and out of D.C. parking spaces and low-ceilinged garages; for that purpose, he has a Dodge Charger, which gets only a few more miles to the gallon than the Hummer but is less likely to be targeted by eco-terrorists.

When Groves returned home on the day the vandalism story hit the paper, a knot of camera crews forced him to sneak in through the back entrance of his home on Brandywine Street in American University Park. He said that when he emerged, he was stuck speaking to reporters for hours.

He was flooded with letters and e-mail: some from unequivocal supporters, some from bilious detractors, many from people "saying they didn't like Hummers, but they didn't like what happened to me even more."


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