RAFU STAFF REPORT
SEATTLE — The Wing Luke Museum in Seattle’s International District was vandalized on Thursday evening by a man who smashed nine windows with a sledgehammer and said, “Chinese ruined my life.”
The attack took place at approximately 6 p.m. during an after-hours tour with Tsuru for Solidarity and community members of the exhibition “Resisters: A Legacy of Movement from the Japanese American Incarceration.”
The Northwest Asian Weekly reported that 76-year-old Craig Milne was arrested on charges of hate crime and malicious mischief. Bail has been set at $30,000.
When witnesses called 911, Seattle Police Department operators said that they were unable to immediately respond because it was considered a vandalism incident where no one was hurt. The police said that staffing issues were the reason for the slow response.
“The department is relieved no one was injured,” SPD said in a statement. “We recognize an incident like this causes psychological and emotional injuries which are especially hard on a community that has experienced an overall rise in bias incidents over the last few years.”
In a post, Tsuru For Solidarity stated, “Just as our tours started, we were interrupted by loud noises and saw a man using a sledgehammer to smash windows at the museum and yelling anti-Asian statements. We are grateful to our members and to the Wing Luke staff for immediately addressing the situation, de-escalating, and keeping those at the program safe. Tsuru for Solidarity leaders and staff pivoted to support community members and Wing Luke staff who were involved. Unfortunately, given the violent nature of the situation, the police were called.”
Established in 1967, the Wing Luke Museum is a cornerstone of the historic Chinatown International District and highlights the culture, art and history of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
The museum is named in honor of Wing Chong Luke (1925-1965), the first Asian American to hold elected office in Washington state. He served as an assistant attorney general for the state civil rights division from 1957 to 1962 and was a member of the Seattle City Council from 1962 until his death in a plane crash.
Damage to the windows has been estimated at between $100,000 to $200,000, but the trauma and emotional impact on the staff and community members can’t be measured.
Speaking to NPR affiliate KUOW, Joël Barraquiel Tan, executive director of the Wing Luke, said, “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.”
He encouraged community members to respond to the crime by supporting organizations such as 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.”
Mayor Bruce Harrell condemned the attack in a statement, saying, “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. We will continue to work with neighborhood partners in the CID to rebuild trust and restore peace of mind.”
The museum announced on Instagram that it would be closed on Monday to “allow for continued sense-making of Thursday’s vandalism and to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the damages.”
“The Wing Luke Museum experienced a racially motivated incident on the evening of Sept. 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 CID community,” the museum stated.
Since the pandemic started, there have been numerous incidents where Asian Pacific American institutions and places of worship have been vandalized and attacked.
In April a man burned an LGBTQ pride flag at Pasadena Buddhist Temple, in what police called a possible hate crime.
The Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park was vandalized in June 2022.
In April and November 2021, fires were started at Konko Church in Boyle Heights.
The San Jose Japantown Monument to Issei was spray-painted with graffiti in February 2021.
Also in February 2021, a man set fire to two lanterns, ripped another two from their foundation, and smashed a glass window at Higashi Honganji in Little Tokyo.
In November 2020, six Vietnamese and Thai Buddhist temples in Orange County were vandalized. Three in Garden Grove, two in Santa Ana and one in Westminster were hit with spray paint.