Two Asian cultural sites have been vandalized within a 7 day span.
On Jan. 2, one alleged vandal was arrested for tagging a mural on the exterior of the Asian Art Museum. Just three days later on Tuesday, Jan. 5, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California announced that every branch was removed from two cherry blossom trees planted in front of the building on Sutter St.
The acts of vandalism come as some say the Trump administration’s mislabeling of the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” is responsible for an increase in hate crimes against Asian communities nationwide, though police have not declared a motive for the two attacks.
In October Mayor London Breed announced the creation of a Community Liaison Unit within SFPD to focus on supporting victims of hate crime. At the time, Assemblymember David Chiu said that “with anti-Asian sentiment and hate crimes on the rise, this new program will be especially beneficial for our API communities navigating this difficult time.”
The man who vandalized the mural outside the Asian Art Museum is suspected to be 27-year-old Jeffrey Caron, who was arrested by police after matching a description from a witness along the 100 block of Hyde Street. Caron allegedly spray painted the word “Nuke,” which police say is a graffiti name used by Caron. He is now in San Francisco County Jail on one count of felony vandalism. The mural, titled “Pattern Recognition,” was created by San Francisco artist Jenifer K Wofford and features speech bubbles with the names of prominent Asian American artists from the Bay Area.
The cherry blossom trees affected had each branch torn jaggedly off, some of which were as wide as 3 inches. A third cherry blossom tree had been vandalized the same way two years prior, according to a Facebook post. The trees, symbolic of Japanese culture, were planted to commemorate a visit from the Emperor and Empress of Japan in 1994.
“This was not simply a passerby trying to break a branch off for fun. Someone took their time breaking off every branch,” said the Center’s Executive Director Paul Osaki.
In a profound showing of community support, a GoFundMe campaign to replace the trees has already raised over $30,000, far surpassing the original goal of $5,000. The Center says they hope to plant new trees by the Spring, and that their blossoming “will represent the hope we all look forward to in 2021.”