On January 24, 2012, 4 police officers from East Haven, CT were arrested and indicted by the FBI on charges that they were abusing the immigrant community, and filing false reports to cover their crimes.
When East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo was asked by a local radio reporter what he would do to help the Latino community after decades of abuse. He (now-famously) said: "I might have tacos when I go home, I'm not quite sure yet."
My coworker and I heard about the story the next morning and, after feeling outraged, furious, and livid, we decided to turn anger into action. We thought: if the mayor wants to mock Latinos by joking about tacos, let's make him literally eat his words.
That morning, we embarked on a text-a-taco campaign to send the Mayor a message that racial insensitivity, especially in light of the abuses against this community, will not be tolerated. We started by uploading a simple graphic to Facebook to let people know what had happend and what they could do to show their outrage.
Within hours, we had more than 500 text messages and started contacting local restaurants to place this order.
Our partners on the ground agreed to deliver the tacos to the mayor and graciously held a press conference when they delivered the tacos the next day. Unfortunately, the Mayor caught wind of our delivery and wasn't there to receive the tacos. [Don't worry, the tacos weren't wasted on him. We left one on his desk and donated the rest to a local soup kitchen.]
Despite the delivery, the taco texts kept coming in. The campaign had more than 400 media mentions online and on television. Our campaign was also featured as The Daily GOOD and became a little nugget of popular culture.
But our work wasn't done.
On Thursday night, we were pleased with the response, but making a media spectacle wasn't our goal. We demanded that the institutional racism running rampant in East Haven be ended, and to do that, the man responsible must be held accountable.
We launched a Change.org petition Friday morning to get rid of Police Chief Joseph Gallo, the man who oversaw the department that trampled over the civil rights of immigrants and Latinos in that community for decades.
15,000 people signed the petition over the weekend putting increased pressure on the Mayor and the Police Chief. By Monday morning, the Police Chief was forced to retire.
This campaign couldn't have solved the issues East Haven, but by ousting the man behind intimidation of an entire community we were able to create space to talk about institutional racism and its impact on the town.