Ivette Celedon and her family were gathered Wednesday for a Fourth of July celebration at her father-in-law’s east Petaluma home, where they planned to watch the fireworks display at the nearby fairgrounds and relax to some music. But it was that very music that brought an unfriendly knock on the door.
A bearded white man in shorts, an American flag T-shirt and a American flag bandana tied around his head was standing in the doorway, and he erupted in an angry tirade — using multiple obscenities — about the family’s Spanish-language music.
“You want to do that on the Fourth of July? You want to go in my country…” he said, trailing off.
The confrontation, recorded on a cellphone by Celedon, 30, a third-generation Mexican-American, is part of a 51-second video she posted publicly to Facebook on Wednesday night. By Friday evening it had more than 1 million views.
“I never imagined it would go as big as it has,” Celedon said. The confrontation unsettled many of the dozen or so extended family members gathered at the home. They included children ages 5 through 14.
“I never thought it would happen in my hometown,” she said.
[Editor’s note: This video shows a confrontation that includes the use of profanity.]
The man, Larry Lappin, a neighbor unknown to Celedon, left without further incident, but the family contacted Petaluma police, who sent an officer to the home to investigate. The officer offered to contact the neighbor on the family’s behalf, but they declined, according to the Petaluma Police Department.
Lappin, 52, who lives behind the home where Celedon was celebrating with her family, has since apologized to her father-in-law in person, a move made after Celedon posted the video on Facebook.
“I made a mistake. I feel bad for it. I’ve apologized to my neighbor,” he said in an interview Friday. “My life might be ruined.”
He declined to comment further, but expressed concern that his job could be at risk. He told KPIX 5 on Thursday that he had been drinking too much on Independence Day.
“Sometimes I wish they would assimilate more. I hear them playing (Spanish language) music in the backyard all the time and it doesn’t bother me. Because of the day and what July Fourth means to me, I felt disrespected,” Lappin told the television station.
The video of his encounter went viral amid heightened tension nationwide over U.S. immigration policy and a searing debate about American identity fueled in large part by President Donald Trump, who staked out strong nationalist themes on the campaign trail and from the White House. On multiple occasions, Trump has voiced his support for Americans to speak English only.
In May, a video circulated online of a white lawyer in New York City who threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement on employees of a restaurant for speaking Spanish. That same month, a video surfaced of a Border Patrol agent in Montana who allegedly detained two women for speaking Spanish at a convenience store.
Celedon said it was fear of the man who appeared at her family’s door that prompted her to hit the record button on her cellphone.
The video begins with a view of the living room carpet at her father-in-law’s house, with Lappin yelling in the background. He repeatedly tells those in the house not to play their chosen music on the Fourth of July. Celedon’s sister-in-law then tells Lappin to leave or she’d call police.