SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia says he’ll be more careful about what he puts on social media after a backlash to one of his tweets by Catholics and Mexican-Americans.

In a staged photo of confiscated guns and bullets officers took off the streets, the Chief included a rosary and a symbol of the United Farm Workers Union.

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Although the UFW symbol of an eagle has been appropriated by gangs, to many, it’s first a symbol rooted in the history of Cesar Chavez’ struggle for human rights for farmworkers and beloved by generations of Mexican Americans.

“It’s a symbol that’s important to a lot of people, and when they see it placed next to guns, that’s an insult,” said

Darlene Tenes, who organizes farmworker caravans to bring food and supplies to field workers during the pandemic, said Garcia should have exercised some discretion.

“People will now believe that the UFW is a symbol of gangs, a symbol of hate, a symbol of violence and that’s not what it is,” Tenes said.

Longtime UFW supporter Father Jon Pedigo was one of the people who pushed back at Garcia on Twitter.

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“I get how symbols are appropriated by other cultures, but I just think that in these racialized times when our city is trying to heal, I think we have to do better,” Pedigo said.

Thursday afternoon, Garcia released a statement about his tweet saying, “As a Latino and Catholic, I’m offended by the use of sacred items to
show gang involvement like the rosary and the United Farm Workers flag, whose rich history we cherish and celebrate. When posting in the future, I will be more thoughtful in considering how to depict what we frequently see on the street with the impact imagery can have in perpetuating racial negativity.”

So far the chief has not taken the tweet down.

“Unfortunately, he still has the image up, so I think the next step is to remove the image, Eddie,” Tenes said.

Father Pedigo is calling for Garcia to meet with UFW supporters and apologize.

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Cesar Chavez began his community organizing efforts in San Jose in the 1950’s and went on to found the United Farm Workers Union which sought to raise wages, improve working conditions and give healthcare to farmworkers.