The Newton Police Department is investigating two bias-motivated incidents against Asian Americans in the city, according to a statement from Newton Community Pride (NCP).
“Within the last 24 hours, we have had two bias incidents, both Asian related, in Newton,” Mayor Ruthanne Fuller wrote in a statement on July 21.
A jogger removed a sign reading “Stop Asian Hate” from a lawn and threw it into the street, and in Newton Centre Green, paint was removed from one of the Newton Out Doors art installations depicting the artist Amanda Beard Garcia’s Asian grandmother, according to the statement.
A Newton Beautification Committee member discovered the damage to Garcia’s door, which is titled “Por Por,” early on the morning of July 21.
“We at Newton Community Pride are terribly saddened and shocked by this destruction of a piece of public art,” the NCP statement reads. “We are especially disappointed that damage would be done to Ms. Garcia’s work, which depicts and honors her deceased grandmother, or Por Por, as she was affectionally called. We as a community, collectively and individually, are better than this.”
Garcia said she first learned of the vandalism after receiving an email from Meryl Kessler, the chair of Newton Out Doors, on the afternoon of July 21. She said she initially did not want to believe the incident was racially motivated, but after the incident with the jogger, she said it was hard to believe otherwise.
She also said she has noticed a rise in anti-Asian rhetoric and violence, especially after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
“I feel like there’s always been evidence of … anti-Asian racism in this country even before the pandemic,” Garcia said in an interview with The Heights. “But it’s almost like because of everything that’s happened, it’s become more prominent or almost acceptable because of the way that, you know, our representatives talk about China or other Asian countries in reference to COVID.”
Garcia, who is a resident of the North Shore region of Massachusetts, said she had not expected the vandalism of her door to prompt as large of a community response as it did, including action from Fuller, the NPD, and NCP. After having time to process the event, she said her anger turned to gratitude for those who also expressed their outrage at the vandalism.
“I’m grateful because … it almost affirms that it was a racially motivated thing or even just the idea of someone being malicious enough to destroy a piece of work for the community is a big deal to people,” Garcia said. “I think most people know that [when] a piece of work is put out publicly, you’re expected to respect it.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Gloria Gavris