Paper hearts with supportive messages are taped onto the windows of Noodle Tree, an Asian American-owned ramen restaurant vandalized Sunday with racist graffiti.
Paper hearts with supportive messages are taped onto the windows of Noodle Tree, an Asian American-owned ramen restaurant vandalized Sunday with racist messages. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Racism against Asian Americans has reared its ugly head in San Antonio, and area officials and community members alike are condemning the vandalism on Sunday of a local ramen shop.

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales vowed to prosecute the incident to the fullest extent of the law including the possibility of tacking on a hate-crime enhancement to the offense, which would carry a stronger punishment.

Gonzales held a press conference Thursday, as members of the community stood in solidarity with Mike Nguyen, whose restaurant Noodle Tree was graffitied last week with racist messages. Days before, Nguyen appeared on CNN voicing his opposition to the lifting of Texas’ mask mandate.

The incident has become especially poignant in light of the killing of six Asian women in a series of shootings at Atlanta massage businesses. Robert Long, a white 21-year-old Georgia man, was arrested on suspicion of carrying out the attacks.

Noodle Tree announced its restaurant would be closed to indoor dining Thursday in light of additional threats the owner and restaurant had received. The business said it would open its restaurant again on Friday with police detail providing security.

Hate crimes in Texas have risen in recent years, with race and ethnicity the most common motive at 64.5%, according to the latest Texas Crime Report.

The national organization Stop AAPI Hate received nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents perpetrated against Asian Americans since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. The incidents occurred between March 19, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021. The organization itself says the data is likely just the tip of the iceberg, as many hate incidents go unreported. Businesses represented more than a third of the locations in which the incidents took place.

Displaying their support for Noodle Tree, San Antonio community members came out to the restaurant after the incident to help clean up the graffiti, and the noodle shop has seen a rise in business since it happened. On Thursday afternoon, a sign displayed outside the store thanked customers after it had sold out of food.

Mask usage remains widely observed at local businesses after Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the statewide order on March 10, but it remains a divisive issue – one H-E-B suddenly finds itself at the center of. The grocer was criticized after what many perceived as a policy that didn’t go far enough in ensuring its customers would mask up.

After H-E-B said it would expect customers to wear face coverings but not enforce a mask order, employees and customers in some stores are seeing maskless shoppers pretty routinely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend masks in public settings and when maintaining 6 feet of distance is impossible. Every day, new studies add to the body of evidence that masks work to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

With 77 new cases of the coronavirus reported in Bexar County on Thursday, the seven-day average has decreased by more than 40 from Wednesday. However, not all lab reports were sent to the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District on Thursday.

No COVID-19-caused deaths were reported on Thursday, and the COVID-19 patient count declined by six after a slight increase on Wednesday.

Nearly 14% of Bexar County residents age 16 or older are now fully vaccinated.

Here are the local coronavirus numbers as of 7 p.m. Thursday:

  • 201,273 total cases, 77 new cases
  • 2,995 deaths, no new deaths
  • 202 in hospital
  • 79 patients in intensive care
  • 41 patients on ventilators
  • 215,467 residents fully vaccinated
JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez is a columnist at the San Antonio Report. A former reporter and editor at the SA Report, he currently works as a project manager for New York City-based Advance Local.