Participants in a "United Against Hate" walk head toward the Los Gatos Civic Center on Nov. 14, 2021. (Photo/Carlos Nuñez)
Participants in a "United Against Hate" walk head toward the Los Gatos Civic Center on Nov. 14, 2021. (Photo/Carlos Nuñez)

Big crowd in Los Gatos marches against hate, antisemitism

“Swastikas create pain.” That was one message from Los Gatos Mayor Marico Sayoc when she spoke to a crowd of thousands participating in her town’s United Against Hate walk on Sunday afternoon.

The Nov. 14 walk — conceived and organized by Diane Fisher, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council at Jewish Silicon Valley — was catalyzed by a series of swastika graffiti crimes defacing Los Gatos buildings and sidewalks in recent weeks.

Moreover, protesters have taken to disrupting in-person Town Council meetings, including one on Oct. 5 according to the San Jose Mercury News, to condemn critical race theory, Black Lives Matter and members of the LGBTQ community. Groups also picketed outside the homes of the mayor and vice mayor during an Oct. 19 virtual council meeting.

“I just said [with] all these things [that] were going on, we [should be] the ones to step in and say, ‘OK, we’re going to make a difference here, and everyone else is going to join in,’” Fisher told J. “And they did.”

Indeed, some 40 groups and individual politicians partnered with the town of Los Gatos for the march, which began at Raymond J. Fisher Middle School and ended with a rally roughly 1½ miles away at the Civic Center.

Ten police officers watched as the diverse crowd walked peacefully and then listened to speeches from elected officials and local leaders such as state Sen. Dave Cortese, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Filipino community activist Jennifer Briscoe.

“I would guess there were more than 3,000 people,” said Lael Gray, CEO of Jewish Silicon Valley. “It was such a  big crowd of people … as far as the eye could see. it was people from every religion, from every walk of life.”

As marchers went by, people came out of their houses to show support, and some people in cars honked their horns, Gray added.

Fisher said the throng, which a Los Gatos police sergeant estimated at 2,000 to 2,500 people, according to the Mercury News, included groups supporting LBGTQ rights, individuals representing the NAACP and members of the Filipino American community — all standing in solidarity with Jews.

“What was so particularly resonant for me,” Gray said, “was that the conversation about antisemitism was there. I think that we really achieved our goal of raising awareness, about rising antisemitism and how harmful and hurtful that is.

“People don’t necessarily think about that [antisemitic hate speech and crimes] when they’re not Jewish.”

Los Gatos’ United Against Hate website thanks a long list of partners “who came together” to “walk for love and peace.” The list includes two local school districts, commerce groups, churches, youth sports leagues, interfaith and anti-racism groups, the Anti-Defamation League, Congregation Shir Hadash, Yavneh Day School, and various coalitions, civic entities and businesses.

The march was one of several steps Los Gatos–based Jewish Silicon Valley is taking to educate the community, particularly youth, about antisemitism and the Holocaust.

Fisher has sent a proposal to the principal at Fisher Middle School that recommends a daylong professional development course for teachers offered by the S.F.-based JCRC. The goal, she said, would be to get teachers to educate middle schoolers about the Holocaust in May, during Jewish American Heritage Month. Typically, she said, Holocaust education for Los Gatos students begins in high school.

She also wants to see the town of Los Gatos implement a graffiti abatement web page, so incidents can be addressed in a timely manner. Fisher said a middle-school student told her it took two weeks after a report was made before a swastika was removed from the sidewalk outside of a Starbucks.

Fisher is optimistic both goals can be achieved, pointing to the tremendous turnout of non-Jewish marchers marching in solidarity that day.

“Doing it all alone would be pointless,” Fisher said. “People were definitely having our backs, and we were having their backs.”

Emma Goss
Emma Goss

Emma Goss is a J. staff writer. She is a Bay Area native and an alum of Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School and Kehillah Jewish High School. Emma also reports for KTVU Fox 2 News. Follow her on Twitter @EmmaAudreyGoss.