On a spring evening in Perry, Iowa, a chorus of kindergarteners were about to take the stage. Adults began the program with introductions, first in English, then in Spanish. During the Spanish remarks, a man from the crowd began shouting, “USA, English only. USA, English only,” disrupting the concert.
Juan Jose Ordonez Deleon, a parent in attendance, considered the pro-English interruption a “hate crime.” And his nephew had just filmed the whole ordeal.
“I told him we need to send the video, make sure somebody knows what’s going on in Perry and maybe they stop,” Ordonez told local news affiliate KCCI.
Ordonez sent the video to the Perry News. On April 23, they published the clip. The footage shows the protester’s antics, and his immediate removal from the premises. Then, the Spanish-speaking woman on the stage resumes her introduction, to thundering applause from the audience.
The Des Moines Register reports that Perry’s kindergarten class was about 50 percent Hispanic or Latino in the 2013-14 school year. According to the paper, the city of Perry was relatively white until the construction of a meat packing plant, which led to a wave of Latino immigration in the 1990s.
The city of Perry, Iowa had a population of 8,108 in 2013, according to Census Bureau data.
On April 24, the Perry News published a letter by Superintendent M. Lynn Ubben to staff at Perry Elementary School:
“I want to commend staff members who attended last night’s kindergarten concert on their quick and appropriate response to an unfortunate disruption,” Ubben wrote, “We live in a diverse/people-rich community that values all people, and our children truly are our most precious resource. As our elementary music instructor so eloquently said, ‘Our children don’t see color. They just see their friends.’ Thanks for advocating for our kids and community. ‘Together we can!'”
Watch a man scream, “USA, English Only!” during a kindergarten concert in Iowa: