June Hate Report: A Starbucks employee writes “ISIS” on a Muslim woman’s coffee and “India Palace” Restaurant in New Mexico vandalized, covered in white supremacist vitriol…
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and continues to claim thousands of lives, hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric targeting our communities continues without pause. In SAALT’s June hate report, we tracked multiple incidents of vandalism and verbal and physical harrassment targeting Muslims everywhere from Texas to Florida to Minnesota to Massachussetts to New York.
Since June 1, 2020, SAALT has tracked 13 incidents of hate violence targeting Muslims and those racialized as Muslim:
- On June 3, Juany Riesco, the owner of Nini’s in Chicago, IL, made “statements online and outside the restaurant that equated Black Lives Matter to a terrorist group”, which also included explicitly homophobic and anti-Muslim remarks.
- Between June 8 and June 12, the Islamic Center of Northern New York, in the town of Leroy, was burglarized and vandalized. An employee reported stolen equipment and damages to religious items. The incident is being investigated.
- On June 10, Alaa Massri was arrested by a police officer when “she had gone to assist a protestor [who] had been struck by a police car” during a protest in Miami, Florida. Massri was detained in Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in West Miami-Dade, “where her hijab was removed for the booking photo. Her hijab was not returned to her for the seven hours she was detained.” Massri’s mugshot was also displayed across broadcasts and media sites.
- On June 11, a Moroccan Muslim couple’s car was vandalized with swastikas and racial slurs, including the words “white power”, while parked in their home town of Revere, Massachusetts. As of July 9, the perpetrator has been identified as Jason Pagiluca, a 38-year-old Revere resident.
- On June 14, Anthony Pelfrey, 43, assaulted a Muslim man and a Latino man with bear spray while they were shopping in Mendocino County, California. Video surveillance has been examined, and shows that “the attack was unprovoked, and that the victim was sprayed while his back turned.”
- On June 15, Dominic Reale, 18, vandalized over 15 vehicles in his hometown of Katy, Texas. Local authorities received over a dozen calls concerning Reale’s violence where he spray painted “racial slurs, graphic drawings, and the phrase ‘Be Gone’ on vehicles near Pembrough’s intersection with Glen Rosa Drive.”
- On June 22, India Palace Restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico was vandalized: ‘white power’, ‘Trump 2020’, ‘go home’ and far worse were spray-painted on walls, doors, counters, and any other available surface.” There was also significant damage to dining tables, glassware, wine racks, computers, food warmers, and a religious statue of a goddess, which was beheaded. The SFPD have not been sharing information with local media outlets about this incident or its investigation.
- On June 23, in Brooklyn Park, Maryland, Islamophobic letters were plastered across a majority-Muslim neighborhood. The letters questioned “how the white race is held to task for a history of slavery in a nation, which now accepts Muslims, even though the author claims their holiest book, the Quran, supports slavery.”
- On June 24, an unidentified perpetrator “spray painted a swastika with references to ‘white power’ and a racial epiteth on the side of a restroom” in Vallejo, California.
- Towards the end of June, Sophia Rashid and her four-year-old daughter were verbally assaulted by members of the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood while they ate ice cream in Stillwater, Minnesota. Rashid was wearing her hijab when she was harassed.
- On July 1, a Muslim woman named Aishah was discriminated against while shopping at her local Starbucks. Instead of writing Aishah’s name on her drink order, the Starbucks employee wrote “ISIS.”The employee and their supervisor have since stated that “it was a mistake and that it sometimes happens with customers’ names.”
- On July 2, two Texas-based LGBTQ+ Facebook Groups — specifically, ones from San Antonio and Houston — were found to have posted a number of Islamophobic and anti-Black statements. One post by the Houston Facebook group asks visitors to its page, “‘We do NOT support BLM do you?’ A post on its page, shared from LGBT San Antonio, reads, ‘BLM planning to burn our church down & end Christianity.” The posts also ‘links to a professor running a series on ‘Teaching Black Lives Matter through Islam and Muslims.’ Another post on the LGBT Houston page, presumably approved by the page’s moderators, declares ‘BLM is funded by ISLAM aka ISIS. They are planning on burning places of worship soon.’”
- On July 2, the University of Arizona “received a report of hate messages being posted on light poles…When the officers arrived at the scene, they found three stickers that displayed ‘threatening statements that promoted white supremacy’ posted on various landmarks in the area…According to images shared by the Tucson Collective, the stickers displayed messages including ‘kill a black on sight’, ‘#WhiteLivesMatter’, and ‘Reclaim America’.”
These incidents of violence do not occur in a vaccuum. Xenophobic and racist polices from the highest levels of government — like the Trump Administration’s recent decision to expand and extend the ban on green cards to additional visa categories through the end of the year, the looming threat to penalize students on F-1 visas for taking virtual classes, and aggressive strategies to challenge the Supreme Court’s ruling on DACA — create fertile ground for interpersonal hate violence targeting Black and brown communities. SAALT also recorded 4 incidents of xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric since June 3, 2020.
- On June 12, a number of protestors organized in Lambertville, MI to demand the resignation of Todd Bruning, a board member of Bedford Schools, who posted several anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ, misogynistic, and racist statements on social media. The protestors were met with counter-protestors, who were in support of Bruning; police officers kept both groups from each other.
- On June 15, an organizer of Republican gatherings in Dodge City, Kansas publicized his decision to host an anti-Muslim keynote speaker “who compared Islam to cancer” at a gathering for potential Senate and House candidates.
- On June 21, the Nashville Tennessean — which is the largest newspaper in the state of Tennesee — posted a “full-page ad from a far-right client warning ‘Islam is going to detonate a nuclear device in Nashville, Tennessee.’ It’s accompanied by photos of Donald Trump and Pope Francis.” Multiple organizations and leaders have condemned this publication and its ad.
- On June 27, posts made by four police officers in the San Jose Police Department on a Facebook group were made public through an anonymous article posted on Medium.com. The article “showed screenshots…in which a member of the group called Black Lives Matter activists ‘domestic enemies’…The article gave another example in which members of the Facebook group commented about a Muslim woman whose hijab was pulled off by a sheriff’s deputy in Ventura County; one suggested pulling the hijab over the woman’s face, and another suggested using hijabs as nooses.”
Since June 1, 2020, SAALTtracked 5 publicly-reported incidents of hate violence and rhetoric targeting Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander individuals and communities. Our AAPI allies and SAALT continue to receive sensitive first-hand accounts of COVID-related hate violence, but these details will not be reported in SAALT’s Monthly Hate Reports.
- On June 13, a white man verbally assaulted Sungmin Kwon as he shopped at a convenience store near Queens College in New York. Kwon self-reported the incident on his Facebook page, with a post detailing the assault: Kwon “heard the man calling Asians filthy and saying that they do not belong in the US…The alleged bigot then tried to kick Kwon and called him a ‘g**k’.” The NYPD have a report of the incident on file, and the Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating it.
- On June 15, flyers were found at several apartment complexes in Newark, New Jersey. “The flyers, which stated ‘Kill Chinese Virus’, were found on vehicles and at apartment doors in the School Lane Apartments, Pinebrook Apartments, Fairfield Apartments, and One Easton.” ThisThe crime is being investigated.
- On June 17, an Asian American restaurant in Wyckoff, New Jersey was defaced with anti-Asian graffiti. The community is organizing to respond to the incident, offering an alternative to policed responses.
- On June 18, “Torrance, California detectives found and interviewed [an unnamed white woman] who was seen in viral videos delivering rants against Asian Americans.” She was not arrested.
- On June 26, Josh Tolentino, a second-generation Filipino American, became “the victim of racists attacks from a white couple” who “referred to [Tolentino] as ‘Kung Flu several times, told [him] to go back to China with the virus, and mocked [him] for wearing a mask.” Tolentino was shopping at his local Publix in St. Pete, Florida, whose Mayor, Rick Kriseman, has put out a statement calling the incident an effect of “Trickle Down Trump.”
Inclusive of the incidents in this monthly summary, SAALT and our partners have tracked 321 incidents of xenophobic or Islamophobic rhetoric, and 662 incidents of hate violence targeting Muslims and Asian Americans, and those perceived as Muslim or Asian American, since 2015.
We must remember that, while Muslims and those perceived as Muslim are the targets of the incidents detailed above, our Black allies are the overwhelming majority of individuals targeted by hate and state violence, especially in policing institutions. Last month, SAALT hosted a webinar to better understand and analyze alternatives to policing, and to develop strategies for South Asian American community members to shape the road to abolition. As a community with a deep (and traumatic) connection to state surveillance and policing, we have a responsibility to ensure that racialized policing is abolished, not merely reformed. To learn more, check out our webinar, featuring abolitionist leaders from Stand with Kashmir, Columbia Law, #8toAbolition, and Project South.