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Riverside Restaurant To Close After Fire, Anti-Asian Vandalism

When Noppadol Mangmeesub smelled gasoline and saw “Fuck U China Virus” graffitied on the side of his restaurant’s building in January, he was in disbelief and felt unsafe. But Mangmeesub, the owner of Xuan Vietnamese Cuisine, did not think it would happen again. Then, last week, a fire broke out at the building.

“It's kind of numb, I didn't feel anything. I'm just looking forward to leave this place alive. That's all I'm thinking,” he said.

The business he runs with his wife has already had a tough year because of the pandemic. The usual lunchtime rush of workers from Wright Patterson Air Force Base is gone, and they have needed Paycheck Protection Program loans to stay afloat. After the fire last week, they decided to close the restaurant in May.

“I just want to do my own business. I don't want to deal with anything else because we don't have enough money to pay people to help us here since COVID,” he said. “With this vandalism, forget it. I'm not going to make it. So I’d rather leave."

Mangmeesub is not alone. A rise in attacks against Asian-Americans combined with the economic impact of COVID-19 has left many Asian-American-owned businesses struggling. A report from the University of California, Los Angeles estimated that Asian-run small businesses in the U.S. dropped by almost 28% from February to April of 2020. In comparison, non-Hispanic white-owned small businesses dropped by 17% over the same period.

Both incidents are currently being investigated by the City of Riverside Police Department. The building also houses the grocery store International Foods. According to the police report from the Jan. 26 incident, a plastic bottle containing gas was found in one of the walls of the building. A truck was also vandalized with racist graffiti. The Feb. 25 fire is being investigated as arson.

Resources

The reporting center Stop AAPI Hate was launched in March 2020. The center tracks and responds to incidents of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Reports can be made here.

Ohioans can file a charge of discrimination with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. Charges can be filed online or by mail, and the Dayton regional office can be reached at (937) 285-6500.

The Asian American Federation has created a Stay Safe from Hate booklet to teach people how to de-escalate threatening situations and defend themselves if they see or experience anti-Asian violence. The booklet is available in Chinese (simplified and traditional), Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, Vietnamese and English.