SEATTLE — Staff at the Wing Luke Museum are coming together to heal after what police described as a hate crime in the historic Canton Alley of Seattle's Chinatown International District.
They hope community members will support the museum by revisiting and spending time in the neighborhood, and getting involved with programming and storytelling after the recent vandalism.
"Safety is not the absence of any kind of danger, but is the presence of our connectedness," Wing Luke Director Joël Barraquiel Tan said. "We can create safety by being together more often and with more of us, and ultimately, that will result in more dignity for everyone — that is the currency of this moment. How can we afford more dignity for everyone in this confusing time?"
The Seattle Police Department (SPD) said it responded to the area around 6 p.m. Thursday evening after receiving several 911 calls reporting a man with a sledgehammer destroying windows and shouting racial slurs.
When officers arrived, SPD said the suspect, Craig Day Milne, was still on the scene and told police, "The Chinese have been torturing [me] for years and [I have] to do something." According to police, he destroyed approximately 10 windows valued around $100,000.
The suspect was placed under arrest for hate crime offense and first-degree malicious mischief, or property damage, according to police.
"It was in our historic Canton Alley which is the cultural heart of, at the very least the Chinese American community here, if not the entire neighborhood," Tan said. "It is the geographic heart of our neighborhood."
Stan Shikuma, co-president of the Seattle chapter of the Japanese-American Citizens League, says an after-hours event was happening inside when the vandalism occurred Thursday evening.
"We heard sounds of glass breaking, someone looked out and said, 'There's someone with a sledgehammer,' so staff rushed out to see what was happening," Shikuma said. "The person with the sledgehammer was just leaning up against the wall, he just had the sledgehammer in one hand and the staff was trying to talk to him."
Shikuma says some people reacted with fear, others with anger about someone attacking the Wing Luke Museum at all. He is concerned about another incident of someone acting on anti-Asian hate.
"We can lock him up and take him away but how many more are there getting primed to make an attack?" Shikuma said. "That's what we're really concerned about — that this seems to be escalating. And all we get are platitudes, we don't get any real plan, that will change the situation."
Shikuma said the incident underscores what he believes are a need for more action by leadership, more support for the CID community by law enforcement, policy changes and a broader societal shift.
A judge ordered $30,000 bail for Milne on Friday. The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office charged Milne on Monday with a hate crime and first-degree malicious mischief.
Friday, Tan spent most of the day with staff. Now, he says, he's focused on upcoming events, including an ongoing storytelling project called the Chinese American Legacy Art Project.
He encourages people to support the museum by donating online or coming to upcoming programming.
"Push past the fear that is often perpetuated by one story after the next about how blighted this neighborhood — which completely ignores the renaissance, the rejuvenation, the amazing new businesses, the youth program, the food bank program, the art that's coming out of here because we know that, living and working in this neighborhood, the rejuvenation and renaissance is already here," Tan said. "We work really hard at creating these joyful experiences but we often get drowned out by the fear that is out there and gets drowned out by pattern of story after story that only points to the lack."
Sunday, Sept. 17, the museum hosted an event involving Wing Luke's sister, Auntie Bettie Luke. She and Stewart Wong shared stories related to the exclusion of Chinese Americans and discussed the Chinese American Legacy Artwork Project which shines a light on Chinese exclusion.
The story sharing is part of the Friends of the Waterfront events at Pier 62. To learn more, visit waterfrontparkseattle.org.