For Napans, 2017 was a year of protests. Women, immigrants, Native Americans, parents and students raised their voices not just on social media, but on the street.
Veterans Memorial Park saw its first of many demonstrations this year on Jan. 20 after President Trump’s inauguration. Despite a plethora of anti-Trump picket signs, the ceremony‘s professed message was one of “love, solidarity, and unification.”
The next morning, thousands of people – many of them women – marched through downtown Napa wearing pink “Pussyhats,” holding up signs and singing chants in support of women’s rights. When they reached Veterans park, they filled it, leaving many demonstrators to stand on the outskirts of the park along the First and Third Street bridges.
Some residents said that “Women’s March Napa Valley“ was the biggest demonstration ever to come to Napa.
The march was one of 673 marches held around the world in solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington.
And what were all these women marching for? To send a message to the new White House administration that “women’s rights are human rights.”
Some of the same demonstrators were out again in February outside of Planned Parenthood on Jefferson Street protesting a pro-life rally. Things remained mostly peaceful despite the disparity in turn-out – those protesting the rally calling to “defund” Planned Parenthood were more than double Planned Parenthood critics.
Also in February, national politics took center stage in Napa once more during the “Day Without Immigrants.” Businesses across Napa County closed for the day to support local immigrant communities protesting the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration.
The protesters marched in a loop along Jefferson in front of Napa High School carrying signs in Spanish and English while they chanted “Si, se puede” (“Yes, one can” — the motto of the United Farm Workers) and “Trump escucha, estamos en la lucha” (“Listen up, Trump, we’re in the struggle”). One sign read, “Pick up your own grapes.”
Fliers listing “What to do if ICE comes to your door” were given out in both English and Spanish at the protest.
Support for the immigrant community was seen again in September, this time at Veterans park, during a rally in favor of protecting “Dreamers,” recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The DACA rally planned in response to the Trump administration’s announcement that the program, which has protected approximately 800,000 people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, would be winding down.
“A lot of Napa community members are feeling anguish, sadness,” Ricky Hurtado said of the planned rollback. “We want to highlight organizations that people can turn to in this time of uncertainty.”
The event, spearheaded by the Napa Valley Dream Team, focused on what resources are available to Dreamers and other immigrants in addition to showing support for the immigrant community.
In the spring, Napa High School was in the headlines for controversy over its “Indian” mascot as well as its investigation into hazing allegations related to their football program.
After a police investigation and what some parents called a “botched” investigation by Napa Valley Unified School District, six students were criminally charged by the Napa County District Attorney’s Office. Some students, including junior varsity quarterback Johnny Torres, were expelled only to have their expulsions reversed later.
Some parents said that the school targeted students wrongly and unfairly.
The hazing incidents occurred during the weeks leading up to the annual “Big Game” between Napa and Vintage high schools in 2015 and 2016. The incidents involved teammates holding other teammates down, grabbing them and hitting them, police reported.
A call to change the school’s mascot was also met with aggressive opposition in the spring.
In April, hundreds attended a special school board meeting on the subject.
“It’s about the history of Napa High,” said Alan Foss, a 1982 Napa High graduate opposed to changing the mascot. His remarks echoed those of other school alumni, including those from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, who insisted on maintaining the identity of the Indian tradition.
History also arose among those calling for the name and logo to change. Current and former students said it was time to remove a symbol offensive to many Native Americans who were subjected to generations of being abused and mischaracterized by sports mascots.
“We as white people need to start listening to the voices of the oppressed,” said a female student. “We are oppressing” Native peoples by using this mascot.
Emotions surrounding the mascot surfaced in February after an 18-member school district committee comprised of students, alumni, parents, teachers, administrators, school board members and activists voted 15-3 to end the use of the Indian.
Napa Valley Unified School District’s Board of Trustees felt blowback from both the football and mascot controversies. A committee formed to recall the board members. However, the committee failed to gather the required 10,000 signatures on its petition.
The petition drive targeted school board members whose critics accused them of botching the district’s response to alleged hazing by Napa High School football players, mismanaging the district’s budget and seeking to retire Napa High’s Indian mascot.
The mascot issue remains tabled.
Lasallian Catholic high school Justin-Siena had its own controversy after their principal John Bordelon was let go immediately following October wildfires that left students out of school for two weeks.
Once the news spread, students began a series of campus marches and other demonstrations protesting what they called the ouster of a well-liked principal with little explanation.
School parents and other allies launched an online campaign demanding the academy bring back Bordelon as the principal and force out President Robert Jordan instead. One such petition on Change.org, aimed at Justin-Siena parents, received its first 100 signatures within 12 hours.
The end result? Bordelon wasn’t brought back, Jordan resigned over the flap, former Justin-Siena teacher Brother Christopher Brady was given Bordelon’s position, and former Justin-Siena High School teacher and administrator David Holquin was named president.
Neither Jordan nor Bordelon ever fully explained the firing.
In his resignation announcement, Jordan stood by the decision, saying it was not the result of specific wrongdoing and calling it “necessary but unpopular.” He said he was resigning because of the uproar over the firing and backlash his family was receiving. In a subsequent letter to parents and staff, Bordelon described the incident as a “breakdown in relationship,” and called for the school to move on and heal.