SALINAS, Calif.- Supporters of the controversial name for a new east Salinas elementary school are now wearing a new t-shirt to let their voices be heard, without saying a word. It's new information on Tiburcio Vasquez, known to some as California's first bandit, a thief and a murderer, while others see him as a Chicano hero. The group of citizens and parents in support of the name said they're taking a new approach to make sure their side of the story is told.
A group of about 30 people went to Salinas City Council on Tuesday, to speak about their interpretation of Tiburcio Vasquez' history, wearing the t-shirt. But the catch? They're only stepping up to the podium if someone else says something negative about the name.
During the public comment period at the council meeting, no one got up to say anything about the name Tiburcio Vasquez Elementary School. But Jose Ibarra said people have in the past and each time his group of supporters will then speak in defense of the name they call a Chicano hero.
"For many years we have been the victims of what we consider disenfranchisement, violence and police abuse, the same that so many people of color have faced," said Jose Ibarra.
But Ibarra said if no one said anything negative, they just quietly leave. The group wore a t-shirt saying Tiburcio Vasquez, my hero your villain, hoping to make a statement. Ibarra said they're coming to the city because they want council members to step up to the plate and join the conversation. Ibarra said the group also feels the Monterey County Sheriff's Deputy Association and the Salinas Police Association, are both making a huge mistake by opposing the name.
"We feel that they are finding a scapegoat to blame for the violence something that they have not been able to have not been able to diminish. So we feel that it is their own failure at dealing with those issues that now they need to find someone else or something else to blame it on," Ibarra said.
The deputy sheriff's association said it won't comment on Ibarra's claims and we called the police association but haven't heard back yet. The city isn't in a position to take a stance.
"Salinas is not in a position to decide who or how they name the schools. That's up to the school board," said Mayor Joe Gunter.
The deputy sheriff's association, has said it will take up the name with the city, to ask for either a city ordinance to change the name and if not then create a ballot measure.