In response to a California school district's decision to paint Progress Pride murals on all school buildings, right-wing extremists plan to protest Wednesday evening.
All 15 of Castro Valley Unified School District's schools, plus the administration office, were painted with the progress Pride flag last week. Chaya Raichik, of Libs of TikTok on Twitter, noticed the video and inspired their followers to criticize the school.
"Homeschool your kids," Raichik wrote, along with a screenshot of the school murals.
Gays Against Groomers has taken the lead and called for a mass protest at Wednesday evening's school board meeting.
California Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell says he's outraged by right-wing attacks on Castro Valley schools and other districts across the country.
"It's a blatant lie to suggest that the Castro Valley School District is teaching our kids anything besides the skills they need to compete in the 21st-century economy," Swalwell tells The Advocate. "Suggesting anything else is intentional disinformation that can lead to violence. So I'm going to call it out. I stand and will continue to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and with our teachers."
One of Castro Valley High School's most prominent graduates put her finger on the pulse of the sentiment in the area 32 years ago. During her high school graduation in 1990, Rachel Maddow, now host of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, delivered a prescient speech about the future locally and beyond.
"Our parents and our leaders cannot even say the word condom in front of one another," Maddow said in her high school graduation speech. "The year is 1990, we're living in the San Francisco Bay area, and this community is still pushing to ban textbooks and is still upset that there is not prayer in schools. Castro Valley has the potential to be an exciting, interesting, progressive community. But the people who dominate it today, I don't think, are ready to let that happen."
Castro Valley Unified School District trustee Michael Kusiak expressed disappointment at the sentiment being espoused by some on the right.
Kusiak has experience shutting down extremism. He distributed United Against Hate posters at the high school in 2017, when racist graffiti was found.
"The reaction to the Castro Valley United Against Hate posters was unexpected. As I delivered them throughout town, it connected me with many people who thought they weren't welcomed here or with those who thought they couldn't proclaim so loudly that they were allies to neighbors and friends who just needed someone to see them," he says.
He explains that Castro Valley in the past was predominantly white and pretty exclusionary. He says he often speaks of that past, owning it and being an "evangelist for the diverse and embracing community that Castro Valley has become."
"You see, hear and experience diversity in Castro Valley that many could never have imagined just 20 years ago. Castro Valley Pride has been at the forefront of helping our community embrace all who call Castro Valley home. And I'm going to continue advocating for a community that welcomes all," Kusiak says.
Right-wing radicals targeted a drag queen story time event at a nearby library over the summer.
"Unfortunately, families who took their children to that event saw the library overtaken by hostile Proud Boys," Swalwell says. "We retook the library a couple of days later and did a listening session with the community to show support."
According to Swalwell, anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in political discourse is driven by political opportunism.
"MAGA Republicans would suggest that every kid is going to become a trans individual and that you should be threatened by that," Swalwell says, adding, "Why do [Republicans] care if someone is transgender?"
He adds that he sees no other point than for Republicans to be cruel, unjust, and discriminatory.
"MAGA Republicans' grievances regarding LGBTQ+ issues are false. But they're intended to smear the community, to create fear around the community and to set back advances and rights that the community is owed, and that's why we have to be so forceful about [fighting back]," Swalwell says.
"It's disinformation intended to stir up emotions that could lead to violence, and that's why it's just so reprehensible," the congressman adds.
He says it is important to defend the LGBTQ+ community from irrational right-wing hysteria, especially when it comes to transgender people.
"You have to keep calling it out. Call it out. Push back. Make sure that truth has an audience, and that truth wins. Otherwise, disinformation will rule the day," Swalwell says. "That's why I'm so vigilant about it myself. I'm grateful that people like school board member Kusiak are vigilant. Because if you don't call it out, hate wins, violence can ensue, and bad public policy could be enacted. So you have to stamp it out wherever it is and hope people would prefer truth over disinformation at the end of the day."