A vandal struck the Old Alvarado neighborhood over the weekend, spraying graffiti on Filipino-American establishments.
Those targeted were the Toppings Too restaurant, the Filipino Advocates for Justice office and the Filipino Community of Alvarado and Vicinity building, which houses various offices including the Union City Chamber of Commerce.
The pieces of graffiti appear to be written in the same handwriting.
According to the Union City Police Department, the suspect painted anti-Filipino messages, and police are investigating the case as a hate crime.
“Graffiti that incenses any group by race constitutes a hate crime,” said Cmdr. Ben Horner of the UCPD.
According to Horner, a hate crime is a felony and could be punished with civil fines and prison terms, depending on how much vandalism occurs.
Though the identity of the perpetrator is unknown, the graffiti appears to name two ethnic groups.
On the Filipino Community building, located at 3939 Smith St., the vandal crossed out “Filipino” and wrote “Mex” above the word “community,” with “f--- Filipinos” underneath. Similarly, the graffiti scrawled on Toppings read “Mex” and “f---- Filipinos” on one side of the restaurant’s entrance door with “AMS” on the other, suggesting possible tensions after the renaming of Alvarado Middle School after Filipino-American labor leaders Larry Itliong and Philip Veracruz.
Members of the Filipino-American community were saddened to see such divisive messages in the community.
Tracie Noriega, a member of the New Haven Pilipino American Society for Education, said in a statement that the acts of vandalism are “extremely disheartening.”
“It is also disheartening that the vandalism is claimed by and against two ethnic groups that have roots in very similar experiences,” Noriega added. “The formation of the United Farm Workers Union was grounded in inter-ethnic solidarity to fight oppression. It was in the spirit of unification that the Mexican and Filipino Farm Workers struck together for better working conditions. As a Filipino-American Community, we continue to stand with all of our neighbors in peace and unity.”
Christopher Cara of the Filipino Advocates for Justice echoed similar sentiments.
“The best thing we can do is move forward in the spirit of building,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Union City Police Department is urging anyone with information to come forward.
Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to contact Union City police at 510-471-1365. Anonymous tips can be left at 510-675-5207 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.