Home Wisconsin Hmong American Center in Wausau targeted with graffiti

Hmong American Center in Wausau targeted with graffiti


The Hmong American Center in Wausau was targeted with vandalism Monday night, director Yee Leng Xiong said.

Xiong said he noticed red spray paint on the back of the center’s van Tuesday afternoon. The graffiti included the letters “FU” and a vulgar drawing.

“We don’t know what exactly is the motive to do something like that,” said Xiong, who serves on the Marathon County Board of Supervisors, the DC Everest School Board and the Weston Village Board. “Obviously there’s not enough evidence to say that it is a hate crime, but without a doubt, vandalism is still vandalism.”

Xiong said it’s clear that the Hmong American Center serves Asian American communities, and that he’s unaware of any other vandalism that took place in the neighborhood Monday night. He also said racism against Asian Americans in central Wisconsin has been on the rise over the past year.

“it’s something that we’ve always dealt with, but it hasn’t been this to this level in the longest of times,” Xiong said. I can’t say that this case is specifically hate-based, but I do know specifically that … when the pandemic initially started during the early stages, I had several Hmong individuals (and) members of the (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community reach out to us as a Hmong American Center and expressed an incidence where they’ve encountered individuals in the community … in a negative way. Some of our clients would be going shopping in the grocery store, and then individuals will walk past them and say stuff like, ‘Oh, it’s because of you that we have the coronavirus’ and remarks saying things that, ‘You don’t belong here.’ There were Southeast Asian individuals that after these incidents were happening,  were afraid to go out even to the grocery stores by themselves.”

Yee Leng Xiong. Photo supplied.

“I don’t wish any harm on the individual” who perpetrated the vandalism, Xiong said. “I wish him the very best. And I hope that he continues to progress mentally, physically, so one day he can reflect on what he’s done here.”

Xiong said he filed a police report.

The Hmong American Center serves as a community resource for Hmong and other Southeast Asian people in Marathon, Shawano, Langlade and Lincoln Counties, including services like meal delivery and transportation. The Center has had to cut back on some services this year, as the pandemic forced the cancellation of the Hmong Wausau Festival, the group’s main fundraiser. As a result of those cutbacks, the center had to let the insurance on its van lapse, but was in the process of reinstating that insurance when the vandalism took place — meaning the center will have to foot the bill to get the van repainted.

Xiong has gotten several estimates indicating that the bill will be well into the thousands of dollars. An ally of the Hmong American Center set up a GoFundMe fundraiser which has already raised over $3,800 toward a $5,000 goal.

Xiong said getting the can running again is important as demand has grown for food delivery and transportation to coronavirus vaccine clinics.

“I wasn’t upset that they … vandalized our property, but the fact that it’s setting us back now from going to go pick up the elderly individuals, dropping off food, picking up food, it’s just setting our operations back,” Xiong said. “But nonetheless, we’re not going to stop here. We’re going to keep serving.”