More than a dozen businesses, most of them Asian-owned, have been the victims of acts of vandalism in recent weeks, according to the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon.
In the last week of January, at least 13 businesses had rocks thrown through their windows or were otherwise targeted, according to APANO.
“A year into the pandemic, at a time when we all need to do our part to keep each other safe, it is unacceptable that Asian Americans continue to be targeted and experience these harms,” Duncan Hwang, associate director of the organization, said in a statement. “It is up to all of us to root out these bigoted, racist sentiments that sow divides and make our communities unsafe.”
Among the targeted businesses were Fujiyama on 82nd‚ Toast La Tea, Hanoi Kitchen, Utopia, Thanhs Billiards, Buddy’s Lounge and My Brother’s Crawfish, which posted video of a person lobbing a rock at their window on Jan. 27.
A Portland police spokesman said the Jade District vandalism reports remain under investigation and that one person had been arrested in connection with a window being broken at a building in the 7900 block of Northeast Glisan Street.
Allie Yee, a spokesperson for APANO, said the motive for the vandalism was unclear, but that a pattern emerged in the type of businesses that were hit.
“Nearly all of the businesses that were impacted are (Asian-Pacific Islander)-owned and these attacks are coming at a time when we’re seeing several reports of anti-Asian incidents locally,” Yee said in an email to The Oregonian/OregonLive.
In mid-December, a man was arrested for a bias crime after he approached an Asian American male who was waiting at a MAX stop in North Portland. “Are you Chinese?” the man, later identified as 38-year-old Daniel Hutchens, reportedly asked the victim. Before the victim had a chance to respond, Hutchens punched him in the face, prosecutors said, and fled the area.
On Jan. 22, an Asian American woman and her son were assaulted on a TriMet bus when a man, identified as Peter Eschright, kicked them in the shins and started shouting racial slurs and making racist statements about the coronavirus. He was also arrested on charges of bias crimes.
Pandemic-related racism in the Southeast Portland business district stretches back to the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the virus was first spreading in March, Multnomah County put out a statement saying some minority groups had begun experiencing an increase in racist incidents, and “Asian American-owned businesses have even reported fewer customers because of the myths surrounding COVID-19,” Willamette Week reported.
Former President Donald Trump repeatedly dispatched racist nicknames for the coronavirus during speeches and rallies in 2020. Those kinds of statements, coming from the highest echelons of government, only serve to inflame racism against Asian Americans, Yee said.
“This also comes a year into a pandemic where anti-Asian sentiment has been stoked and we’ve seen a surge of hate incidents and discrimination against Asian Americans,” she said.
Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks incidents of hate against Asian Americans, took more than 2,500 reports of bias or hate between March and August. In Oregon, the Department of Justice took 77 similar reports between March and January. Of those, the vast majority were reported in Multnomah County.
Yee’s organization has rallied to help the affected businesses in the short term, she said, helping to pay for repairs and connect business owners with local and state government resources.
But while windows can be repaired, the underlying prejudice that Yee said fueled the vandalism is a deeper problem that can only be solved at the systemic level.
“We need to address the racism and hate at the root of this violence, which has impacted many BIPOC communities, especially the Black community, in the past year,” she said.
— Kale Williams; [email protected]; 503-294-4048; @sfkale