A single person stood in counter-protest at the main gate of College of the Canyons’ Cougar Stadium before Saugus High School’s football game on Friday, donning a face-mask and holding a sign that said “Go Home Nazis.”
As about a dozen people arrived – protesting the William S. Hart Union High School District’s Sept. 28 decision to not allow the Saugus football team to carry the “Thin Blue Line” flag onto the field during games – the sole counter-protester made an obscene gesture toward them, something the person would continue to do as more arrived.
The counter-protester chose to be anonymous, both in appearance and in statements, citing safety concerns.
“One of the reasons I’m out here is they shout ‘blue lives’ but the fact is that there are no blue lives, they’re blue jobs,” said the counter-protester. “But they take Black lives every day… That’s why I support Black Lives Matter. I support Black people. I support indigenous people and I want them to know that that’s why I showed up today. Because these people, they’re supporting a system that only serves to oppress.”
Protesters who attended handed out Thin Blue Line flags to those entering the game and sometimes interacted with the sole counter-protester. Among them were Cindy Josten and Nancy Fairbanks, local conservative activists and organizers. Josten and Fairbanks said they don’t believe the Thin Blue Line flag has any political intentions.
“I just feel that this is not division. I think it’s more we want to support our law enforcement and the people that are going to be there for our safety for our children,” said Josten. “I don’t understand why this has got to be a political, left side [or] right side, but that’s what they’re making it and we are only here to let law enforcement know we respect them and support them.”
“I had been a victim of a violent crime and the law enforcement came out and If it wasn’t for them, I would have been more battered,” said Fairbanks. “So it doesn’t matter your color, your race, your belief, they’re there for the person, to save your life.”
Also in attendance were Hart district Superintendent Mike Kuhlman and school board President Joe Messina.
Messina said he does not believe the Thin Blue Line flag represents the oppression of minorities or causes polarization.
“I think that’s just that’s the way it’s been politically grabbed and run with. The bottom line with it is everybody calls the police when they need help,” said Messina. “And you’re right, there was a small group of people that feel bad about this. But you know what, maybe it’s more education. Maybe we need to work harder, and make sure that we know that these kids understand, these young people understand. They’re not here to hurt them, they’re here to help them.”
Many in attendance were wearing Thin Blue Line shirts, wearing or waving flags, or had on custom-made apparel featuring the Thin Blue Line with “Saugus Football” labeled on it. This was mainly the parents and families who were in attendance. Most students at the game were wearing pink – for breast cancer awareness, as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Izabella Grady, Julia Sargent and Justin Mackey, all seniors at Saugus High, said they really wished politics were left out of school events all together.
“I think they should keep political beliefs at home when it comes to a game like this. For our seniors. We’re doing this for Dominic and Gracie,” said Grady, referring to Dominic Blackwell and Gracie Muehlberger, the two students who were killed in the November 2019 shooting at Saugus High School. “We need to put all of our beliefs beside this point and just do it for them. And so I feel like we need to stop thinking about blue lives matter, red lives, any of that whole crap…. just think about our futures. We’re seniors, we need to act like adults but we’re not acting like adults. I think protests are good. But when it comes to some like stupid things like this, leave that at home.”
“Who cares what you believe in, it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care, believe in what you want, said Sargent. “I’m not gonna say my opinion or anything. So it’s just like, it just shouldn’t be brought into school matters.”
“I agree that a lot of the political beliefs should stay at home, and it shouldn’t be brought into an educational space,” said Mackey. “School is really meant to learn and to socialize with people and just have fun while you’re young enough.”
Although interactions between the protesters and the counter-protester were mostly amicable, there was a tense moment just before the start of the game, when a man approached the counter-protester and criticized the counter-protester and said, “You are nothing, you are zero, you are garbage.”