Costa Mesa gathering spreads message of love and unity following students’ party with Nazi symbols

Almost a week after they came to light, images showing students from local high schools giving Nazi salutes around a swastika fashioned from red plastic cups remain etched in the community’s mind.

Since the photos went viral on social media Sunday morning, the emotional fallout has been both potent and varying. What came as shocking or anger-inducing to some was to many a solemn reminder of a whispered reality.

More than 100 people gathered Friday evening in Costa Mesa’s TeWinkle Park — just down the street from Costa Mesa High School, which some of those who were at the party reportedly attend — to show solidarity with the Orange County Jewish community and promote the idea that love and unity will triumph over hate.

Some carried signs reading “A swastika is not a joke” and “Let’s make the world a better place.” Others wore stickers with the slogan “No place for hate.”

The event, presented by a host of community groups — March for our Lives OC, Orange County Equality Coalition, Anti-Defamation League of Orange County/Long Beach, Human Rights Campaign of Orange County/Long Beach/Palm Springs, Irvine for Everyone, Together We Will Orange County, Women For: Orange County, March for Our Lives California and Women for American Values and Ethics — included a Jewish Shabbat service and a vigil illuminated by electric candlelight.

It was the latest gathering this week in response to the photos taken at an off-campus party last Saturday night in Costa Mesa that students have said included teenagers from Newport Harbor, Costa Mesa and Estancia high schools.

On Thursday night, the theater at Corona del Mar High School was filled for a forum discussing anti-Semitism and the social environment that allows it to take root. A similar meeting took place Monday at Newport Harbor High.

Also on Thursday, Eva Schloss — stepsister and childhood friend of famed diarist Anne Frank — met with about 55 Newport Harbor students, staff members and parents to discuss her incarceration as a teenager at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and speak firsthand about the horrors Nazi Germany inflicted on millions of Jews and others during the Holocaust.