A San Antonio restaurant was vandalized with racist graffiti just days after its Asian American owner denounced the state’s move to end its mask mandate.
Mike Nguyen found the hateful messages in red paint scrawled over the front of his ramen shop, Noodle Tree, early Sunday — three days following his appearance on CNN blasting Gov. Greg Abbott’s call to fully reopen the state.
Some of the vile graffiti read “Go back 2 China,” “Ramen Noodle Flu,” and “Hope U Die,” as well as another that specifically referenced “no masks,” CBS reported.
“When you see pictures is one thing, but when I actually walked to the restaurant, physically saw with my own eyes, I was enraged,” Nguyen told the outlet. “I was upset.”
The restaurateur, who is undergoing treatment for lymphoma and lost a relative to COVID-19, said his pushback against Abbott’s order to end the state’s mask mandate on March 10 was personal.
“Dropping the mask mandate will not help the economy, will not help us open,” Nguyen told CNN that evening. “And a lot of us feel that he’s putting a lot of us in danger.”
Nguyen said he girded himself for possible blowback to the interview, but didn’t think he’d actually be targeted, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
“I was prepared for something like this, but I didn’t think it was actually going to happen,” he told the newspaper. “People from San Antonio don’t do stuff like that. We’re a tight-knit community.”
Nguyen believes his CNN interview was a “contributing factor” to the vandalism, but said he thinks his Vietnamese and French background also played a role.
“They thought it was legitimate because I’m an Asian American,” he said. “Somehow, this whole pandemic is Asian American’s fault.”
Meanwhile, Nguyen told the Washington Post he’s staying outside of San Antonio until the shop reopens Thursday. He’s pushing police to probe the attack on his business as a hate crime, the newspaper reported.
San Antonio police said they had not made a determination on the hate crime designation as of Monday.
“I’m not going to give up,” Nguyen told the newspaper. “I’ve had two bouts with cancer. It’s going to take more than some paint on my window to rattle me.”
San Antonio’s mayor, meanwhile, praised the local residents who came out Sunday to help Nguyen clean the outside of his restaurant, which reportedly sold out of food that day.
“Thank you to all the neighbors who showed up to help & proved that we’re better than this one hateful act,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg tweeted. “We must work together to eradicate racism from our city.”