Richmond community gathers at mosque to overcome hate

Byby Melanie Woodrow KGO logo
Friday, December 25, 2015
community in Richmond holds up messages of love
Worshippers were joined by neighbors outside the Islamic Society of West Contra Costa County to write messages of love after a serious threat of violence against them.

RICHMOND, Calif. (KGO) -- A Richmond man, accused of making death threats against members of a Richmond mosque, is out on bail and members of Richmond's Muslim community are questioning his release.

William Celli, 55, was arrested Sunday after police found a homemade pipe bomb inside his home.

VIDEO: Pipe bomb found at home of man who threatened Richmond mosque

Sometimes it takes the innocence of a child to remind adults love is greater than fear.

Yanell Valazquez is 7 years old and wrote a note saying, "Even if you don't love us, we still love you."

She explained, "We're making notes and we're going to hang them on the wall, so the people know that we love them and support them no matter what."

Thursday night, worshippers were joined by neighbors outside the Islamic Society of West Contra Costa County.

Yanell's mother, Yenny Valazquez, said, "I wanted her to understand the struggles of other communities because we're one community here in Richmond."

The rally was in part to question Celli's release on bail from jail. He is accused of shouting threats from across the street from the Islamic Society's place of worship in Richmond earlier this month. He was arrested Sunday after a bomb squad detonated a pipe bomb outside his home. Celli had posted a picture of the bomb to social media.

Imam Hamza Mehter said, "If somebody who made those types of threats is at large again, it's concerning."

"When one person is threatened or harmed we're all threatened or harmed," Richmond City Council Member Eduardo Martinez said.

Harmed but not broken. Their spirit and faith renewed by the outpouring of love.

"We're humans and just because of that we need to be in support of one another," Yenny said.

People covered the doors to the mosque with these messages of hope and support. Organizers are calling it a "love splash".