FREMONT, California — Racist graffiti targeting Indian Americans and Mexican Americans has appeared inside Meadowbrook Village, a gated condominium complex in Fremont, California.
The graffiti was found at a work-site inside the complex at which a crew from Saarman Construction and subcontractor Carlos Welding are engaged in a long-term renovation project. The majority of residents at Meadowbrook are Indian Americans.
The graffiti — which was spray-painted onto scaffolding at the work-site — bore racist language such as “F**k Mexico”; “White Power”; and “Build the Wall.” One piece of scaffolding bore the phrase “SPIC! INDIA.”
A swastika was scratched onto a piece of equipment and also spray-painted on another piece of equipment.
Meadowbrook Village community manager Selina Bravo told India-West this is the second time racist graffiti has appeared at the construction site. She said the first incident occurred shortly in mid-March. “We are looking to the community to report anything suspicious,” she said, classifying the incidents as hate crimes.
Lt. Mike Tegner of the Fremont Police Department told India-West that detectives are actively investigating both incidents as hate crimes. “What was written is extremely disturbing,” he said, adding: “We take hate crimes very seriously.”
The Fremont Police Department is looking through surveillance videos, and talking to residents of the complex to get leads into the case. Tegner said the investigation is active and ongoing.
“Fremont is such a great community. We don’t see this very often anywhere in Fremont,” he said.
Fremont is home to one of the largest populations of Indian Americans outside of India. Approximately 20 percent of the town’s residents are Indian American. Fremont is a bedroom community on the edge of Silicon Valley, in San Francisco’s East Bay Area.
Colin Lynch, owner of Bay West Property Management, which is overseeing the multi-year renovation project of the complex’s 400 units, told India-West: “This appears to be one person. The remarks in both incidents were very consistent.”
Saarman and Carlos Welding filed two separate police reports, according to Lynch. “The police came out and looked at the site, but there were no leads.”
Lynch has asked residents to forward videos that may provide clues, but has received none to date. Asked whether a resident might have committed the crime, given that the community has several gates which can only be opened with a fob, he said: “It’s hard to say whether it’s someone within the community.”
The incident has spooked Meadowbrook Village dwellers. Indian Americans Neeraj and Tara Dubey, long-time residents of the community, expressed their concerns about the incidents.
“This is bad for the whole community. We have never had this experience before,” Neeraj Dubey told India-West, expressing his hope that law enforcement would successfully intervene.
Another long-time resident, Sridhar — who asked that only his first name be used for fear of being targeted — told India-West it was unclear whether the perpetrator was targeting Meadowbrook residents or the work crew, who are predominantly Latin Americans.
“In either case, it is very disturbing to know that someone with this troubled mindset lives among us,” he said. “Our children play on the lawns, run around everywhere in this big space. We’re not behind them all the time and its worrisome to think that someone might harm them because they are Indian.”
Fremont city council member Raj Salwan — who formerly served as vice mayor — told India-West: “It is very unfortunate this is happening, considering the current climate which has brought the issue of racism to the forefront.”
Salwan, a long-time resident of Fremont, said there has always been an undercurrent of racism in the town, but it has never been overt.
“Since 2016, people feel more emboldened,” he said, referring to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which some say began a wave of racism and xenophobia throughout the country and continues through his administration.
Salwan said he will bring the incident to the attention of Fremont’s Human Relations Commission — on which he formerly served — and urge the city to devote more resources to the hate crime investigation.