SANTEE, Calif. – Santee Mayor John Minto reacted angrily Monday to a pair of recent public displays of racism at grocery stores in his East County town.
“It saddens me and angers me to say over the past week there have been two incidents of intolerance in our city,” Minton said in a video he posted online.
Minto was referring to two ugly incidents. The most recent happened last Thursday hat a Food-4-Less store in Santee, where a man wore a face mask with a Nazi swastika flag affixed to it while shopping. The man posted a video on social medial claiming that he was peacefully protesting government social distancing rules.
Sheriff’s deputies were called to the store and the told the man to remove the Nazi symbol, which he did.
A few days earlier, on May 2, another man wore a KKK-style hood while shopping at nearby Vons store in the 9600 block of Mission Gorge Road. A store manager told the man to remove the hood or leave the store,. The man took it off. In both cases, photos of the racist headgear were posted to social media.
The sheriff’s department investigated Klan hood incident, but Monday, investigators announced that there were no grounds for criminal charges against the man, whose name has not been publicly released.
When questioned by detectives, the man “expressed frustration with having people tell him what he can and cannot do” during the pandemic, according to a statement from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
“He said that wearing the hood was not intended to be a racial statement,” the agency’s statement says. “In summary, he said, `It was a mask, and it was stupid.”‘
Many Santee residents said they are stunned by the displays of racist imagery, which have revived talk of the town’s past reputation as a hotbed for skinheads and racists. It was once even derisively referred to as Klantee.
“Crazy people around and they’re coming out, I guess, and they just think it’s funny,” a woman shopper told FOX 5 Monday. “It’s sad Santee has to have this image.”
“Those are symbols of hatred. We need love in this world. We don’t need hate. We got enough of that,” another shopper said. “I’m surprised someone would do that. I’m shocked.”
Mayor Minto said he is now pushing for the expansion of the city’s Community-Oriented Police Committee to focus on the resurgent issue of racism.
“There is no room in our society for racial prejudice, and these incidents are not indicative of the people of Santee,” Minton said.
Francine Maxwell, the president of NAACP San Diego, said Santee city leaders need to confront the issue publicly and take a firm stand against any actions that stir up racism and intolerance in the community.
“We don’t want the politicians acting as business-as-usual – making a statement here or there. We want bold leadership, and we want these hate incidents called out as they come, so that they don’t magnify into hate crimes.”