A group of high school students in ritzy Newport Beach, CA, in Orange County, threw a party over the weekend where they made a swastika out of beer pong cups and did the Nazi salute. Many in the community have expressed sadness over the students' ignorance about Holocaust history, calling their decisions "a direct reflection of the privileged culture of Newport," and some are calling for them to be expelled from school.
Screenshots from Snapchat surfaced almost immediately of the group laughing and holding up the Sieg Heil gesture. In other pictures, there are captions including "German rage cage" and "German engeneraing" [sic].
This disgusting picture was taken last night in Newport Beach, CA at a party of high school students from various high schools. This hateful conduct is reprehensible & all involved must be held accountable. And we should all recognize that we must be diligent in ending bigotry. pic.twitter.com/qOf29GjUMs— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 4, 2019
newport harbor & costa mesa high school students playing swastika beer pong and doing the nazi salute. this never was and never will be funny. It’s a direct reflection of the privileged culture of newport. contact nhhs and cmhs so these ignorant assholes get what they deserve pic.twitter.com/ryj9YCNQiN— bianca (@biancalutzz) March 3, 2019
A few people have moved to identify the students in order to shame them on social media and make sure they are disciplined at school. Many of them reportedly attend Newport Harbor and Costa Mesa high schools.
"I was completely appalled when I saw kids in my city laughing and having fun saluting Hitler around a big swastika," Ava Ganz, a senior at a Jewish day school in the area, told the local ABC station. "I couldn't just scroll past this on social media and let it happen. I decided to tweet out the picture. My tweet got attention quickly; people are outraged, rightfully so. I hope that one day these kids truly understand the deep hate they were displaying that night."
Officials said the Newport-Mesa Unified School District had a crisis-management meeting on Sunday to discuss the situation.
"We have a concern both for the physical health of students who are underage drinking as well as the mental health of our students or their friends that thought this was an okay thing to do," school district president Charlene Metoyer told CBS Los Angeles. "More should’ve been done to make sure the students recognize the severity of the symbols they were using. It is not something funny. It’s a very, very serious situation."
"We were recently made aware of social media postings involving some students who created inappropriate, anti-Semitic symbols, and possible underage drinking," Adriana Angulo, a spokesperson for the school district, told OC Weekly. "While these actions did not occur on any school campus or school function, we condemn all acts of anti-Semitism and hate in all their forms. We continue to gather information regarding the conduct of these students and work with law enforcement."
Orange County Rep. Katie Porter issued a statement condemning the students' actions.
"I condemn the devastating and shocking anti-Semitism on display by local students this weekend," Porter said in a statement. "The use of such a harmful symbol, which represents the genocide of the Jewish people, is an act of aggression and hate that has no place in our vibrant, diverse, and welcoming community. I call on local parents and community leaders to redouble our efforts to educate these young people about the oppression of, and violence against, Jewish people worldwide, and ensure that acts like these never happen again."
The official account of the Auschwitz Memorial, the site of the largest former Nazi concentration and death camp, tweeted: "Someone should ask: how come? Why those young people decided to use those symbols of hatred? Someone should think how dangerous this is."
Someone had an idea... Someone placed the cups... People raised their hands... Someone took the picture & shared with with the world.— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) March 4, 2019
Someone should ask: how come? Why those young people decided to use those symbols of hatred? Someone should think how dangerous this is. https://t.co/rFZ15Zx9Es
The number of hate crimes in Orange County almost doubled from 2015 to 2017, with people who identify as either Muslim or Jewish being the most common targets, according to the county Human Relations Commission. In the U.S., hate crimes increased by 17% from 2016 to 2017, according to FBI statistics. Hate crimes against Jewish people rose by 37%. These upticks have been attributed to the presidency of Donald Trump, who has emboldened white supremacists by refusing to denounce Nazis and perpetuating racist conspiracy theories.