A Mexican flag beckons next to a mural that marks Brooklyn as a "community of flags". The legal status of the man accused of killing the Brooklyn-based Mollie Tibbetts has created a focal point in the national immigration debate. (19659017) "Iowans with Better Food"
First, Brooklyn greeted the flood of attention. When Tibbetts was missing in mid-July, reporters filled the Classic Deli, which has home-baked cake and free WiFi, and enthusiastically devoted themselves to any development in this case.
Hundreds of people from Poweshiek County joined search parties, the corn fields and barns. Members of the community held prayer vigils and covered the area with missing signs made by the local printing house. They tied knickerbands – Tibbetts favorite color – to street signs.
"We all wanted to find Mollie," said Rusty Clayton, who owns the hardware store and has known the family since Tibbett's mother was a girl. "It was a collaborative effort, and our community expanded beyond our borders."
On August 15, Vice President Pence – who visited Iowa to discuss Trump's tax-cutting plan – met Tibbet's family aboard Air Force Two. It was paternal, not political, her father, Rob Tibbetts, told Des Moines Register, and Pence "fully agreed."
That changed a week later after Rivera was charged with murdering Tibbetts and Trump's allegations in the West Virginia Rally. Brooklyn's appreciation for the widespread attention shifted to resentment.
On August 23, a news crew filmed in front of St. Patrick's Catholic Church. The church held a watch for Tibbetts after her body was found more than a month after she disappeared. KC McGinnis to the Washington Post
They resented the fact that Trump, whom her county treasured in the presidential election, politicized the death of one of her own and kept her from mourning in peace. They refused that Tibbetts, whom they describe as warm, sharp, liberal and talkative, was used as a pledge for a political position she would never have accepted.
In response to the political outcry, a relative on Facebook wrote: Evil comes in EVERY color. "At their funeral service on Sunday, Rob Tibbetts defended the Latino community and said," As for me, they are Iowans with better food. "
At a picket in St. Patrick's, where Tibbetts was a parishioner, Youth Minister Angie Gritsch almost mentioned that the young woman was" not a Trump fan, "and then changed her mind If Brooklyn could escape politics, she thought it was in the church.
But if Mollie knew Trump's speech
"Oh my God," Gritsch said, "She's so angry."
Brooklyn is not usually about Washington politics, and although many Republicans reject Republicans, there are many who vote for Democrats.
"The great rivalry here," said Clayton, "is when Iowa and Iowa State are up
Looking for a fallen yard sign Information about Tibbetts lying beside a statue commemorating John Wayne's childhood home in Brooklyn. (KC McGinnis for the Washington Post)
Flowers grow around a shield for Yarrabee Farms. Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the man, who was accused of killing Tibbetts worked there. (KC McGinnis for The Washington Post)
Immigrant families were attracted to this by job opportunities in the meat packing industry, by construction crews, and as farm laborers. The Latino population in the city has grown steadily since 2000, but still accounts for only 2.3 percent of the population.
Brooklyn's Latino residents say they felt welcome in this city midway between Iowa City and Des Moines, but there were subtle tensions. Language barriers create a certain separation and there are cultural dividing lines: quinceañeras are a community affair in Mexico. Here they are not.
Many Latino families live on farms where they work or in another country owned by their white employers.
At Yarrabee Farms, the longtime long dairy where Rivera worked, the phone was flooded with hundreds of calls. News and death threats since the arrest, attacking the family for employing an undocumented immigrant.
"This farm is absolutely an accessory to the death of Ms. Tibbetts," a person wrote on a Facebook page for the store.
Dane Lang, whose family owns Yarrabee Farms, stands in his cowshed. (KC McGinnis for The Washington Post)
Hatred forces 33-year-old Dane Lang, who lives on the farm next to his grandfather and his staff, to send his dog to a friend and arrange to meet the 90-year-old Patriarch to stay with relatives. Then, reluctantly, he called a press conference to explain that the business was running Rivera's documents through a social security database before they hired him, unaware that the papers were wrong.
The Langsbets know the Tibbetts family well and soon after the news. Www.nphinternational.org/ml/news/ar…de&year=2006 A Tibbetts family member reached out and apologized Long for the entire farm. "You're not sorry," Lang said, adding that the worst was yet to come. Next would be the process.
After Rivera's arrest, Lang's clerks, mostly from Latino, locked themselves behind locked doors in their trailers on Lang's property for fear of being seen in the city, Lang said. Rumors circulated that immigration and customs officials were planning to loot Brooklyn, and anxious families weighed whether to stay or leave.
Eustaquio "Capi" Bahena Radilla, an uncle of Cristhian Bahena Rivera, speaks at his home in Brooklyn. (KC McGinnis for The Washington Post)
A poster that offers a reward for finding Mollie Tibbetts missing during a run. (19659044) Rivera's uncle Eustaquio "Capi" Bahena Radilla said he was less afraid of himself than of his three school-age children. On most days, Bahena Radilla only meets with colleagues in Yarrabee Farms. Even if he spent more time in the city, he would not know if neighbors whispered about him – he does not speak English.
But his children go to school with their children.
"My concern is these people will treat them badly or look at them differently," Bahena Radilla said through an interpreter.
North of the city, in her house in a private seascape, Adela Fragoso, babysitting the Tibbetts children and attending high school with Lang, wondered if she should attend Tibbetts Sunday service. She was not worried that people would say something; She was worried if they did, how it would affect the Tibbettts family. She would speak to Mollie's mother privately as soon as everything calmed down.
Now that he was 34 years old and a permanent US resident, Fragoso said she had come as a child from Mexico with her family. She had never felt unwelcome in Brooklyn, she said – but things suddenly seemed different.
Some of her Facebook friends made derogatory remarks about undocumented immigrants. A man she saw in nearby Mexican restaurants wrote after Rivera's arrest: "That's why we need an [expletive] wall."
"I do not think they are racist," said Fragoso. "I just think they are ignorant."
Fragoso has crossed the border between legal and illegal, as she had both status during her time here. She said that documentation has not changed the person she is or the choices she has made. But she feels trapped, she said, between the desire to educate her neighbors and a yearning to flood everything.
"I think it might separate us a bit in the community," she said.
Clayton, the owner of the hardware store, agreed. "Not only does your heart hurt for Mollie's family," he said, "but it hurts for the Hispanic community because it's all put a black eye on them."
He also wants harmony in the city to recur – as long as everyone follows the rules.
"I think everyone just wants to live happily together," Clayton said, pausing to clarify. "Right, I mean."
Emily Gus accepts orders for the Classic Deli and Ice Cream Shoppe. Gus was on the track and talked to Mollie Tibbetts. The restaurant, a community base, was a favorite spot for FBI agents to eat while they were searching for Tibbetts. "I'm kinda deaf," Gus said.
Trying to move on
At the end of the week, Brooklyn finally took refuge in some routine: Friday night lights.
On the high school football season opener on Aug. 24, an away game in two counties, Brooklyn High School asked the host team to keep the evening focused on football. Teammates from Brooklyn Bears – including Mollie's brother Scott, quarterback plays – would wear Mollie's initials on their uniforms, and the cheerleaders would tie teal bands in their hair. They did not want anything anymore.
On the sidelines and in the stands, Latino and white children cheered, although foreign policy had influenced them too. The girl from the 10th grade, who was listening to classmates who said that people like her should go back to Mexico, had since received 10 text messages, mostly from strangers, full of hate. She did not know how she got her number.
A message had come from a child she knew. Others were sent from neighboring area codes. Her older brother, Gerardo Gamboa, had posted a message on his Snapchat asking that bullying cease.
Gamboa, who had just started near college classes, drove to the game to watch his former teammates play. His sisters, both cheerleaders, gathered the crowd. In the field, Tibbetts younger brother led the team to three touchdowns in the first half.
At halftime, the sisters ran over to greet Gamboa with hugs and a request: concession fee.
He grumbled, fished for cash in his wallet, then asked his sister about the harassing texts – and if anything had been done.
She had done as she was told, she said: delete the message, block the number, and, like everyone else in the city, try to move on.
Cows rest near the road where Mollie Tibbetts body was found outside of Brooklyn. (KC McGinnis for the Washington Post)