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Tea Party Protest at Calif. High School Marks U.S. Flag T-Shirt Scandal Anniversary
By Kami Dimitrova
A Cinco de Mayo incident from four years ago that evolved into a civil rights lawsuit showed its face again today in a town just south of San Jose, Calif.
A silent protest was held outside a California high school today in response to a Cinco De Mayo event four years ago in which school officials reportedly asked five students to remove their U.S. flag T-shirts, according to the Morgan Hill Police Department.
Nearly 50 protesters, some of whom are members of the Gilroy-Morgan Hill Patriots, a tea party group, rode motorcycles, donned American flags, and pledged allegiance in front of Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, according to police.
“We didn’t bring signs, we didn’t bring anything with words on it, we were just silent,” the group’s president, Georgine Scott-Codiga, told ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco. “And we’re leaving right now, as soon as we’re done with this because we did it before school, so we’re not disrupting the school.”
This comes after five students were sent home from school in 2010 for refusing to comply with school officials on Cinco de Mayo when they were asked to turn their American flag T-shirts inside out, police said.
A lawsuit that was filed by the parents of these students was dismissed by judges from the Ninth Circuit Court in February of this year, ruling that student safety trumps the students’ First Amendment rights, according to documents published on the website for the court.
“The panel affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in a civil rights suit brought by high school students who were asked to remove clothing bearing images of the American flag after school officials learned of threats of race-related violence during a school-sanctioned celebration of Cinco de Mayo,” the court documents read.
“The panel held given the history of prior events at the school, including an altercation on campus, it was reasonable for school officials to proceed though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real,” the documents said.
A parent of one of those students four years ago was at the rally today and told KGO-TV that that her son is now an Army reservist.
“He was accused of being a troublemaker wanting to start trouble and not being part of the unity by wearing an American flag and now he’s out there defending the flag,” Joy Jones told KGO-TV. “And that’s what it’s about for these kids, pride in their country.”
A former student who drove through the protests today told ABC News that people should have showed their support for what she calls the “Live Oak Five” a long time ago.
“This is totally being blown out of proportion,” said Vivienne Castillo, who graduated from Live Oak in 2010. “We’re all kind of tired of all of it. Most people in Morgan Hill thought it was over and are now forced to be reminded unnecessarily.”
She said tension between Mexican and American students is something the community has seen before.
“Years past there have always been issues with Mexican kids and American kids. Kids would get the Mexican flags and tie them around their necks like a cape and instigate fights,” she said.
A group called “We the People Morgan Hill” was planning to do an anti-protest today, police said, but backed out at the last minute.
KQED reports that group is comprised of concerned Latino parents. Police say they assembled thinking the protest would be an unsafe environment based on blogs posted by people who ended up not being part of the tea party group hosting the event.
The school had a privacy fence that lined the avenue in front of the main entrance of the school and police say there were no attempts from protestors to enter school property.
An administrator from Live Oak High School told ABC News the school would not be commenting on the protests.