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Shattered windows and nerves, Seattle's Wing Luke Museum targeted in alleged hate crime

Seattle's Wing Luke Museum was targeted in an alleged hate crime Thursday night, leaving its windows shattered and patrons alarmed.

"How incredibly sad that it hits at, literally, the heart of the Chinatown, International District, or historic Canton Alley," said Joël Barraquiel Tan, executive director of the Wing Luke Museum.

"The hate-motivated vandalism that happened is just part of a long line, and a pattern, that tells us this is the work that is happening right now we must do."

According to a police report on the incident, a 76-year-old white man smashed the windows of the museum with a sledgehammer shortly before 6 p.m. on Thursday. Police found him outside the building, where he told them, "the Chinese ruined my life."

The suspect appeared in court Friday, but has not yet been charged. He is now held in King County Jail on $30,000 bail.

"We know a targeted incident like this will have lasting psychological scars on AAPI communities that since the pandemic have experienced an increase in hate crimes," Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said in a statement. "We will continue to work with neighborhood partners in the CID to rebuild trust and restore peace of mind."

Barraquiel Tan responded to the crime by urging the community to work together to "do something bigger than this crime," such as supporting the Chinese American Legacy Arts Project, which "speaks to a history that wasn't that long ago, 100 years ago, that is directly tied to this kind of hate, because from that will come a greater understanding."

For now, wooden boards will replace the broken glass windows at the museum. While speaking with KUOW, Barraquiel Tan talked about repairing the museum as it relates to the larger context of supporting the Chinatown-International District after it suffered under the pandemic. What the neighborhood needs right now, he said, is more people.

"We need many more people ... a regularity of presence, because that's what makes the neighborhood, that's what makes it village," Barraquiel Tan said.

"If you've ever been moved by, if you were shaped by Chinatown-International District, if you are Asian and Pacific Islander American, if your daughter in law is Asian American, if your grandchild is Asian American, this is home, this is home, and this is the time to come home."

Tan said it starts with a shift in perspective.

"Not looking at this neighborhood as a problem to solve, but as an American cultural treasure to uplift and center," he explained. "It is the bold investment that's needed here to really demonstrate what this neighborhood is, and always has been — an American cultural treasure."

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The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience includes exhibits on the culture, arts, and history of Asian Americans in the Northwest, such as "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee," which is currently featured. It was founded in 1967 and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute. The museum is named after Wing Chong Luke, who was the first person of color elected to office in Seattle (the Seattle City Council), and the first Asian American elected to office in Washington state.

Full statement from the Wing Luke Museum:

The Wing Luke Museum experienced a racially-motivated incident on the evening of September 14, resulting in the destruction of our property in the historic Canton Alley. While our mission's work will be undeterred by this incident, we currently are focused on the well-being of our staff and members of the C-ID community.

The Wing Luke Museum will close its doors today at 3 p.m. to offer staff trauma-informed support and will resume normal business hours this weekend. Our hearts are with organizations like Tsuru for Solidarity and other community members who regard the museum as home.

We are grateful for the community's support and the strength we hold together. Community supporters interested in donating can visit our donation page. In the comment box, please add “WLM general support” or “Chinese American Legacy Project”.

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