About 60 protesters said they have had enough of the stickers and fliers bearing racist messages around Turlock.
They gathered Tuesday at Central Park and marched four blocks to City Hall, where they spoke to the City Council about assuring that Turlock is a welcoming city.
“This is very heartening, that we’re standing up to any kind of bigotry that tries to come into our town,” said Marcus Lawrence, vice president of the Stanislaus County African-American Democratic Club.
He was one of several people taking a turn with bullhorn at a rally at Main Street and Golden State Boulevard. It was the latest response to the racist messages, which started appearing last year on stop signs and other locations.
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Speakers also continued to denounce Nathan Damigo, an Oakdale-area resident who helped organize an alt-right rally that led to the death of a counter-protester in Charlottesville, Va., last year. Damigo attends California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock.
Danielle Ray-Reyes, a leader in the anti-racism effort, said she and her allies have collected 229 stickers so far. Police Chief Nino Amirfar said he was aware of 39 that city employees have removed. Some of them were on stop signs, which were changed to say “stop open borders.”
Placing a sticker on a stop sign is typically an infraction, Amirfar said, but the consequences can be stronger if property is damaged. It can rise to a felony hate crime if people are targeted for specific reasons, he said.
The chief also noted the First Amendment: “Posting the sign, however vulgar it is, is free speech.”
Rally speaker Essma Nasher, who attends Stan State, noted that more than half of its student body is Latino. She told the council that racist fliers on campus have made some students afraid to walk to their cars at night.
The council passed an anti-hate resolution last year in response to this issue. Speakers on Tuesday urged more support for people who are attacked because of race, religion or gender identity.
“I am Turlock,” Ray-Reyes said. “I am not afraid of you.”