Oakland police apologize for ‘insensitive’ Cinco de Mayo statement

Oakland police © Stephen Lam
The Oakland Police Department has apologized for a press release linking Cinco de Mayo to “salty margaritas” with soaring road accidents. Following outraged complaints, the department admitted to using “completely insensitive” language.

“The Oakland Police Department would like to apologize for the recent press release addressing traffic safety enforcement during the Cinco de Mayo holiday,” the department said in a statement released on Tuesday. “We acknowledge that the language in the message sent was completely insensitive to the cultural holiday.”

In the original message, the OPD lectured those celebrating the commemorative holiday, cautioning: “In the rush of party preparations and getting dressed up for a night out, it’s easy to forget the most important Cinco de Mayo plan of all: designating a sober driver.”

Citing a rise in the number of road accidents during Cinco de Mayo, the department said it would deploy extra officers on May 5 in an effort to lower the toll of deaths and injuries.

The OPD had to explain that it did not mean to insult the Latino community when it said, “Cinco de Mayo has become synonymous with festive fiestas and salty margaritas,” leading to driving accidents by “fiesta-goers.”

Instead, the Oakland Police Department said it had hoped its warnings would “raise awareness” about the dangers of driving under influence and prompt the community to drive more safety. However, the OPD’s good intentions were not interpreted as such by the state’s Latino community, landing the authorities in hot water.

Police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said the department had received emails complaining about the news release, which included the subject line “Fiesta Time or Jail Time?” according to the Mercury News.

“It’s important not to lose focus that our intention is to remind everyone of public safety and if you are going to be drinking to designate a sober driver,” Watson said. “At the same time, we have to be careful about our language and not use words that can be offensive.”

A Facebook group called Oakland Latinos United expressed outrage following the OPD release.

“How does it feel. As a Mexican Chicano I wonder if OPD will be posting DUI PSAs for every ethnic & culturally based holiday?” the post’s author wrote.

His frustration was picked up on by some users in comments.

“I don’t believe in Police state tactics especially aimed at a certain people. They never do Check Points on Telegraph or on Broadway where the majority of Clubs bars and Drunks are at,” the post’s author said in replying to one of the commentators.

At the same, the majority seemed to like the initiative, saying that it is was a good idea.

“But they do put extra DUI points in 4th of July. We should be happy they are putting DUI points, discourages people to drink and drive, can save a life or 2,” someone wrote.

May 5 commemorates Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Pueblo during the Franco-Mexican War in 1862. The holiday is widely celebrated in the US, where 33.7 million Hispanics of Mexican origin resided as of 2012, according to Pew Research.