Ever wonder if Donald Trump’s rhetoric about Mexicans and undocumented immigrants makes an impact on the ground? Look no further than Gary, Indiana.
At a high school basketball game between two Catholic schools last week, a group of students wearing patriotic clothing held up images of Trump and taunted Hispanic students and fans from the other school.
Fans of Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., displayed a banner reading, “ESPN Deportes,” and chanted, “Build that wall!” a reference to Trump’s campaign promise to erect a wall along the US-Mexico border, in order to keep out “rapists” and drug dealers from Mexico.
Fans of Bishop Noll High School responded with chants of, “You’re racist!”
Bishop Donald J. Hying said in a statement that the incident remains under investigation.
“Any actions or words that can be perceived as racist or derogatory to others are antithetical to the Christian faith and will not be tolerated in any of our institutions,” he said. “It was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind that such actions would be happening at a gathering of two of our Catholic high schools. This is not what we teach our students.”
“Jesus is at the center of all we do and his message was and is one of inclusion and respect for all people,” he continued. “I take this incident to heart and again state that it is not to be tolerated, even as a childish prank.”
The principals of the two schools met Feb. 28 “to plan steps for moving forward,” and released statements condemning the taunts.
“As an institution of Catholic education, we view this challenge as an opportunity to remind our students and staff of their call to bring glory to God, while serving his people with love, compassion and mercy,” said Andrean High School principal Rick Piwowarski.
“We will be taking steps within our halls, in (collaboration) with the diocesan administration and Bishop Noll, to ensure that all of our students and staff understand their obligations of responsibility, acceptance and sportsmanship,” he said.
Bishop Noll High School principal Craig Stafford called the incident “a teachable moment,” and suggested political rhetoric may have contributed to the taunts.
“Perhaps (the incident) was an unfortunate byproduct of irresponsible speech in today’s political arena,” he said. “We are proud of our diversity. Our diversity is our strength. Bishop Noll will continue to educate our students in faith, social justice and to always respect all people, regardless of race, creed or socioeconomic status.”
This isn’t the first time Trump’s rhetoric has been blamed for hostile actions.
Last summer, police accused two Boston brothers of beating a homeless Mexican man sleeping outside a transit station. Following their arrest, one of the men pointed to Trump as his motivation for the attack.
“Donald Trump was right; all these illegals need to be deported,” Scott Leader said.
When asked about the incident, Trump said his followers were “very passionate” and that they “love this country and they want this country to be great again.”
Trump is the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, having won seven of 11 Super Tuesday contests.