Videos show group of women taking down Black Lives Matter signs in Visalia

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Note: Action News incorrectly aired a graphic at 6 p.m. that read Topanga Pena. Topanga's last name is Jackson, and she is a friend of Joseangel Pena.

Joseangel Pena, a recent graduate of El Diamante High School, rushed to the school's west fence line on Wednesday night, after a friend called to tell him that they had seen a group of people tearing down signs associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, including some he had made.

By the time Pena and his sister showed up, a group of women had already taken down all of the signs and started to put them in their cars.

Pena recorded his confrontation with the group, which included a part-time, temporary employee of the Tulare County Office of Education.

"We're old and cranky," one of the women in the video says. "You guys are old and cranky and racist too or what?" Pena responds.

"These are the people of Visalia, California, taking down the signs of proud Black Lives Matter supporters and proud minorities that are out here," Pena says later.

Later, Pena's sister recorded the moment when one of the women points a pair of scissors at Pena.

"This is a woman who pulled out a weapon on a kid," Pena's sister says in the video.

Pena called Visalia Police.

They tell Action News that two reports were taken at the scene.

Both are under investigation.

"Not once did we get to the point where we were going to become aggressive or brandish any weapons," Pena said. "And they decided to pull scissors on us because they felt threatened by us confronting them about tearing these signs down."

"(When) they were saying that to Joseangel, that made me sick," Topanga Jackson said. "It made me sick and honestly no one should ever have to go through that. And that was just a prime example of them showing their true colors and we got it on video finally."

Before he started recording, Pena says he asked one of the women if there was a problem with the signs.

He says she said yes, because "all lives matter."

"Of course all lives matter, in a sense," Pena said. "But we're trying to take care of the black people first because they're the ones being persecuted and murdered in the streets. We have to protect the black community, especially here in Visalia. It's just a small black community, we have to protect these people who live here."

Visalia Unified School District's Superintendent says they have allowed the signs to hang on their fence, as long as the words weren't violent or vulgar.

By Thursday afternoon, the fence was filled with signs again.

6/24/2020 Incident Statement from Tim A. Hire, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools

We have reviewed video evidence of a group of women who appear to have removed signs from fencing near El Diamante High School on June 24, 2020, and have been able to identify that a part-time, temporary employee of the Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE) was present. We are further investigating her role and actions during this incident.

TCOE is committed to equity for all people as evidenced by our current and ongoing work with the National Equity Project and twenty-five years of leading character education in and around Tulare County. A year ago, TCOE received a grant by the National Equity Project to inform and train Tulare County educators to make systemic changes to inequities that exist in our schools. In January of this year, TCOE hosted the first annual Equity Conference attended by nearly 300 educators and community members.

Incidents such as the one that took place last night, and others around our nation, are examples of why we have invested time and resources to address such an important issue within our community and our society. The Tulare County Office of Education is committed to continue this important work moving forward.
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