A dozen community leaders, responding to alleged hate crimes from late last year, met last week and agreed it is time to do something "proactive" to convey the message that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated.
The leaders, including Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga, police Chief Scott Vermeer and elementary school district trustee Ellen Wheeler, met last Tuesday to discuss ways to prevent more such incidents from occurring. One by one they shared their visions of incorporating local businesses, reaching out to students and setting up forums for residents to share their stories.
The meeting was the group's first, although another discussion is planned for March and a citywide event for April.
Former Human Relation Commission members Alicia Crank and Chris Burley said they had always intended to organize the citywide event to embrace Mountain View's diversity. But after a series of recent incidents, the two recruited representatives from the police department, schools, churches and nonprofits in hopes of organizing a bigger event, sooner.
At the next meeting, the group plans to show "Not in Our Town," a documentary film about a Montana community's reaction to racism. The video sparked a national movement.
"The general message is already out there," Crank said. "How do we tailor it to us?"
Crank said the need for these forums became more urgent this fall. Just before the presidential election, stolen elementary school enrollment signs written in Spanish reappeared with red spray paint reading "No more aliens." School administrators called it a hate crime, but police said they did not have enough evidence to classify it that way.
Then in December, three high school students were charged with hate crimes after allegations that they chased four Latino middle school students while brandishing a BB gun, screaming racial epithets and threatening to kill them.
Crank, the main organizer of the hour-and-a-half-long discussion, brought in a representative of the Not in Our Town movement, who talked about how it all began after someone in the Montana town threw a brick through a living room window with a menorah. Residents there responded by putting paper menorahs in their windows.
"We need to figure out what our menorah is," said Bruce Barsi, a representative of Mesa de la Comunidad.
Community leaders agreed to look into funding and potential sponsors before meeting in March.