Update: Caldwell Police say graffiti no longer being investigated as hate crime
Update: Caldwell Police wrote in a Facebook post that the graffiti sprayed on the exteriors of Caldwell High School is no longer being investigated as a hate crime. We have updated this post to reflect the new information.
The Caldwell Police Department says the graffiti that read “White Power” was used as an intimidation tactic between rival gangs and not as a hate crime. Police say a video of the incident and other evidence prompted them to change the investigation’s focus. The video showed four individuals wearing dark hoodies and face masks vandalizing Caldwell High School on Thursday.
Neither Caldwell School District nor the Caldwell Police Department described the vandalism in their joint Facebook post, but KTVB reporter Brenda Rodriguez posted a picture on Twitter taken at the school showing the graffiti.
I received this picture from a student this morning. I’m at Caldwell High School right now, they are working to remove the graffiti. pic.twitter.com/F2l6BJmav8— Brenda Rodriguez (@BrendaKTVB) January 19, 2023
The crime took place two days after a student at the school staged a peaceful rally to push back against school dress code policies.
“I held a Brown Pride protest at my school today,” the student wrote in a video posted on her Instagram page showing images of the rally.
“I was told to take off my Brown Pride hoodie because it could be racist and it was like wearing a white pride shirt,” she explained.
The Caldwell School District dress code says, “Students are not to wear or carry items of apparel, clothing, accessories, cosmetics, tattoos – temporary and/or permanent, body markings, jewelry – including body piercings, which depict or allude to: drugs – including alcohol and tobacco; controlled substances; drug paraphernalia; gangs; violence; sexually explicit, lewd, indecent content; promoting or encouraging bullying.”
In an email sent before the protest, Fred Betancourt, the school’s behavioral interventionist, said the student had been accused of being in a gang because of the clothing she was wearing and felt stereotyped for being proud of her Mexican-American heritage.
In her Instagram post, students are seen waving Mexican flags, holding signs that said “Brown Pride” and walking through the school’s hallways. One student carries a sign saying “We refuse to lose and let our culture die,” while others quote Mexican American civil rights activist César Chávez.
A picture of the flier made by the student to promote the rally ahead of time and obtained by Boise State Public Radio explains Brown Pride is a celebration of “the diverse latin ethnicities through different types of cultural foods, musics, and traditional dances.”
“Brown Pride means Mexican Pride,” it reads, adding the movement originated in California.
The concept of “Brown Pride” comes from the Chicano Movement of the '60s when Mexican Americans reclaimed the term "Chicano," once used as a slur, to counter negative stereotypes against their community. The movement, also known as El Movimiento, organized around workers rights, voting rights, equal access to education and land reclamation.
Latinas and Latinos make up about 13% of Idaho's population, but in Canyon County, where Caldwell High School is located, the population is almost 25% Latino. Over the last decade, they also account for 24% of the state’s population growth.
In an interview with KTVB, Caldwell High School Principal Anita Wilson said while the students had done a great job at having a peaceful protest, the term "Brown Pride" was associated with gangs.
Unlike the idea of white pride, which is rooted in white supremacy and the belief held by neo nazis, fascists and white nationalists that some races are superior to others and should be segregated, the words "Brown Pride" are used today by young Latinos and Latinas to express pride in their identity and counter harmful stereotypes faced by non-whites in the U.S.
The flier explicitly asks for participants to remain peaceful and makes it clear that no gang signs or affiliations will be allowed at the rally.
Find reporter Julie Luchetta on Twitter @JulieLuchetta.