San Diego, California station KGTV 10 News received a photo from an unidentified viewer that sparked a firestorm of reaction. The photo shows a California personalized license plate that reads “NOT SEE.”
At first glance, its meaning is unclear. But when you widen the shot, the swastika symbol that the driver placed above the license gives context that the driver’s intended message was “Nazi,” and one of hate.
The 10 News team tracked down the car’s owner and discovered that it is Shawn Calpito of Kearny Mesa, California. The anonymous viewer who sent the photo confirmed that Shawn was also the person who was responsible for the personalized plate.
When they tried to get a statement from Shawn, he would not answer his door and it appears he was tipped to their arrival because his car’s plates and his Facebook page were taken down.
Southern Poverty Law Center civil rights attorney, James McElroy told KGTV, "This one is so subtle that without the other symbol, without seeing the other symbol, there's no way for someone regulating this to realize that it is, you know, supporting Nazis." In fact, the California DMV requires applicants of “special interest license plates” complete a field explaining the meaning of their requested plate choice. However, without an accurate explanation of a driver’s intended meaning, the DMV is unable to make a fully informed judgment on the personalized plate request.
While the plate stirs intense anger in some, others argue that the license plate message is one of free speech. James disagrees with that saying, "This is not what I would call a legitimate political belief. This is hatred.” According to ABC News, the owner of the plates is a school bus driver. California DMV Office of Public Affairs told ABC News, “On October 31st the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) sent the vehicle owner a notice cancelling the plates and requesting they be surrendered.” Shawn Calpito has not commented and it is unknown if he has surrendered the personalized plates.
Update: In a follow up report, KGTV 10 News found that San Diego Unified School District is working with the Anti-Defamation League and has suspended Shawn Calpito from his position as a school bus driver. The district released this statement: "This concern was brought to the district's attention yesterday. School bus driver Shawn Calpito has been placed on leave pending investigation." Other school bus drivers told the station that they filed complaints with managers about Calpito's car that was parked in the school bus yard but swift action was not taken until KGTV's report. Those sources said that the "NOT SEE" license plate was recently added, but the swastika had been on the car for months.