Residents fear growing anti-immigrant agenda

August 26, 2009 3:32:37 PM PDT
Police are looking into whether racially-charged graffiti discovered on a community center is connected to two other cases in Pilsen.The director of Casa Aztlan Community Center says Pilsen is a place where diversity is appreciated. But the messages of hate have shaken up the neighborhood where residents are concerned about growing resentment toward immigrants.

For almost 40 years, Casa Aztlan has brought people together in the Pilsen community. On Tuesday night, the words 'white power' and a swastika were discovered on the building.

"This type of hatred cannot go unchecked and cannot go unrecognized and not talked about," said the man who found the graffiti. He does not want to be identified.

The graffiti is similar to two other instances- both in Pilsen- earlier Tuesday. The same message was spray painted on buildings within walking distance of the community center.

The predominately Hispanic neighborhood is slowly gentrifying, according to Carlos Arango, the executive director at Casa Aztlan, but remains an attractive to people with an array of backgrounds. He said the graffiti might be motivated by someone with an anti-immigrant agenda.

"It's very disappointing that people still have a lot of hate in their hearts," said Arango.

On Wednesday, the center also received an anonymous letter written in Spanish referring to the Hispanic community in derogatory language. Both the letter and the graffiti are being investigated by the police and 25th ward Alderman Danny Solis, whose chief of staff saw the message of hate Wednesday morning and had it painted over by streets and sanitation workers.

"This is not going to be tolerated. Alderman Solis is very disappointed at how people are defacing these buildings in the anti-immigrant movement," said Vicente Sanchez, Alderman Danny Solis' chief of staff.

No suspects have been identified in the vandalism. Arango said the center has received letters like this one before- and has ignored them. However, the timing of its arrival concerns him.


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