One northern California town is worried Cinco de Mayo may be filled with protest instead of celebration. Since 2010, Cinco de Mayo events strike a nerve across the country after a clash about a decision on the American Flag, and fueling rallies at the school. Four years ago, the town of Morgan Hill was center to controversy when local high school administrators banned students from displaying images of the American flag.
Live Oak High School is now a volatile ground for protest rallies after May 5, 2010. That day, school officials caught wind of tension arising between students after tempers flared when some of the Latino students saw American flag t-shirts as deliberately disrespectful. The four boys wearing the shirts were called in and ordered to turn them inside out to avoid trouble. The boys were later sent home as a repercussion for refusing to follow the order, insisting the shirts were simply a display of American pride. The days and weeks that followed spurred an ugly feud between white and Hispanic students at the school and an uproar throughout the community of Morgan Hill and the whole U.S., both in its neighborhoods and in the courts.
Cinco de Mayo, sometimes known as “Mexican Independence Day,” is a holiday which commemorates the anniversary of an 1862 Franco-Mexican battle in which Mexican troops defeated the French. News of the victory spread to Mexicans living in the territory that is now California, and the reaction sort of shapes the cause for this holiday associated with Mexico, independence and partying.
In fact, the true meaning behind the Cinco de Mayo holiday is rather American, since it was generated by Mexicans living in America, and fueled by the American politics of the time. They took this battle victory and interpreted it as a symbolic reason to celebrate Mexican freedom and independence in the face of the United States Confederacy threats to spread slavery across the entire southern U.S. during the American Civil War. For them, this battle solidified the principles of democracy and freedom, putting a metaphorical nail in the coffin on ideas of oligarchy and slavery.
No matter the original reason for the holiday, Cinco de Mayo strikes a nerve after the 2010 clash at Live Oak High School over the students’ American Flag t-shirts, becoming a fight over free speech.
A conservative law firm called Freedom X sued the school district and high school administrators for a violation of the boys’ rights to free speech, due process and equal protection. The case made it up to the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals.
School and town officials are preparing for the worst this coming Monday, May 5. The fire has re-ignited after the court ruled in favor of Live Oak High School administration this past February on the grounds that school safety was more important than protection of free speech in this case. Freedom X lawyers have claimed they will fight to take it to the Supreme Court.
Police forces will be beefed up, on call and ready for whatever Cinco de Mayo may bring this year. There are reports of several groups planning to picket at the school on Monday, including Tea Party activists, the Gilmore Morgan Hill Patriots, motorcycle convoy, and a conservative local radio host among others. Police have spoken with representatives of all of the groups with the exception of the bikers. All groups say they plan non-violent protests by marching or standing silently and holding American flags.
Some parents are electing to keep their children home from school, in case violence erupts reminiscent of the 2010 American flag clash that now strikes nerves on Cinco de Mayo.
“It does not matter your ethnicity or heritage; we are all Americans,” said Rey Morales, the father of two students who had stones thrown at them in the wake of the controversy four years ago. “Making children feel shameful for their heritage is not right. And as for Monday, safety for kids trumps freedom of speech.”
By Erica Salcuni