Parents and students arriving Wednesday morning at Cali Calmecac Language Academy in Windsor were greeted with an overwhelmingly friendly sight: a group of community members holding signs showing their love and support for the school.
Standing on the sidewalk in front of the bilingual Spanish-language immersion school, the crowd held signs bearing messages such as “Windsor loves Cali” and “Have a great day at school” while others simply had large hearts drawn on poster paper.
The demonstration was just one part of a deluge of public support coming from the community since early Monday, when parts of the campus were covered with graffiti invoking Donald Trump’s name and the anti-immigrant message “Build the wall higher.” Students from other schools made signs or sent letters, while neighbors and community members have offered to lend Cali Calmecac a helping hand.
Cali Calmecac, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade, has a largely Latino student body and teaches classes in both Spanish and English. Staff, teachers, parents and students were shocked this week by what they called an offensive and racist act of vandalism.
One banner outside the school Wednesday appeared to take particular aim at the graffiti message about the wall, a clear reference to Trump’s plan to prevent immigrants from coming to the country illegally. Signed by students from Windsor Middle School, the banner stated in large green letters: “There are no walls in Windsor” in both English and Spanish.
“We’re going to give them all the support we can. I used to work here. My kids went here,” said Paolo Breschi, a counselor at Windsor Middle School. “My heart’s here, too.”
Larkfield resident Vicky Royer, the main organizer behind the show of support, said the gathering was about spreading a positive message quickly in response to the negative graffiti earlier in the week.
“We can do this now. We can come and show love,” Royer said after the demonstration. “It needed to be immediate.”
Supporters estimated about 40 people turned out Wednesday, among them Windsor Town Councilmembers Debora Fudge and Bruce Okrepkie, as well as Windsor Unified School District Superintendent Steven Jorgensen and Jeanne Acuna, principal of Cali Calmecac.
“There’s been so much support and just an outpouring of good will from the community,” Acuna said. “It’s just amazing. The positive in this outweighs the negatives so much that it’s very heartwarming.”
The demonstration may have been the most high-profile community response since Monday’s graffiti incident, but was by no means the only one. On Tuesday, two women stood outside the school in the rain holding signs of love and support, and when Cali Calmecac students went to Brook Haven School in Sebastopol for a basketball game, they saw supportive banners, including one that said “united against racism,” Acuna said.
And written messages from other schools were a common reaction: Cali Calmecac received them from the Guerneville School, a second Windsor Middle School class and a fifth-grade class at San Miguel school.
Meanwhile, students, teachers and staff at Cesar Chavez Language Academy in Santa Rosa were signing a large supportive card Wednesday, said Paul Miller, whose son is in second grade at that school. Miller’s wife made the card Tuesday and he said it should be delivered Friday to Cali Calmecac.
Cali Calmecac has also heard from painters and neighbors offering to continue covering up the graffiti, and the Redwood Empire Schools Insurance Group offered a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case, Acuna said.
Authorities have yet to identify any suspects. Windsor police reviewed video surveillance footage from the school but did not see anything useful, said Chief Carlos Basurto.
Basurto on Tuesday issued an open letter to the community, saying the graffiti had relayed “an offensive and racist message” apparently directed at the large number of Latino students at Cali Calmecac. He said it was “extremely upsetting” that children were faced with “such hatred and bigotry,” called the vandalism unjustifiable and intolerable, and said police continued to investigate.
Demonstrators have tried to show how much the vandalism conflicts with their community’s values.
As the school day began and the demonstration wound down Wednesday, people gathered together for a group photo, some channeling first lady Michelle Obama’s message “We go high” and then “Cali rocks!”
Shortly afterward, parent Anabel Moreno stopped to take a photo of the demonstrators as she walked by. Moreno has a daughter who attends Cali Calmecac and said she was glad to see the signs following the “rude and mean” graffiti found on campus Monday.
“It feels good. It’s nice to have support — some backup,” Moreno said.
Anyone with information about the graffiti is asked to call Windsor police at 707-838-1234.
You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @thejdmorris.