PLACERVILLE (CBS13) — A Toys for Tots event in Placerville took a troublesome turn over the weekend after police said a white supremacist group showed up to help.
The group took a photo flashing a hate sign that spread fast on social media. Now city leaders are under fire.
Police said this group of white supremacists took advantage of an event to help kids.
"I was traumatized," said Heidi Mayerhofer with the Placerville Downtown. "I feel like we are all victims of their opportunism."
Initial outrage over the situation was directed at police because the white supremacist group took a photo next to a squad car.
Placerville Police Chief Joseph Wren said in a statement that his department was accused of partnering with the group, which is false. He said officers help with traffic control for the event organized by the Marines every year and that "it's unfortunate some choose to use the Toys for Tots event to push a personal or political agenda."
But community leaders are calling for more.
"We need to hear our leaders stand up and say this is not OK in our community. We will not tolerate hate," Mayerhofer said.
Sean Frame, an activist who founded El Dorado County Progressives, called the photo shocking.
"This kind of thing is not what Placerville is," he said.
He's one of many worried an image of hate will deter people from coming to Placerville at a crucial time.
"Businesses in this town have been through a lot and they need to have a good holiday season," he said.
There's fear a photo captured in seconds could damage the rest of the holiday season.
"In the last 24 hours, I've gotten emails from people saying they don't feel safe. They don't want to come to Placerville," Mayerhofer said.
Police added in their statement Monday, that they can't stop people from taking a photo next to their squad car in a public place.
CBS13 reached out to Toys for Tots about the situation but have not heard back.
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