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Racist notes left at Concord apartment where Bhutanese refugee family lives

Last modified: 10/25/2012 3:55:10 PM
Two notes insulting immigrants and refugees were left taped to the door of a family of Bhutanese refugees, the third incident of racist notes on refugee homes in Concord since September 2011.

Bhakta Gurung and his wife, Bishnu, and their two children moved to Concord four months ago from a refugee camp in Nepal, where they had been living since being exiled from Bhutan.

The notes were left taped to their door in an apartment building on Eastern Avenue – one on Sunday and one on Monday. One was shorter and written in marker; the other filled an 8-by-11-inch white paper, and was written in pen.

They said, among other things, that the Gurung family members are “inconsiderate assholes” who receive everything for free.

Written as if by the Gurungs, one of the notes said, “help us get kicked out of our apartment.”

The family cannot read English, and did not know what the notes said, but were concerned because the papers didn’t resemble official communications from the apartment property manager. A case worker from Lutheran Social Services visited yesterday and realized what they were.

“He said it is not tolerable, and it is bad words you cannot digest,” Gurung said through an interpreter. “He explained it in my language, and I feel bad.”

The case worker called the Concord Police Department, which began an investigation yesterday afternoon. Officers at the apartment complex said they could not comment on the situation for fear of compromising the early stages of the investigation.

This is the third incident of racist notes left for recent refugee immigrants to Concord. In September 2011 and August this year, notes appeared written in black marker on several homes in the South End.

The same detective is working on this case, and his initial assessment is that it is not related, said Concord police Lt. Timothy O’Malley.

O’Malley said the police aren’t sure if anyone committed a crime in this case, because the notes were on paper taped to the door, instead of written on the actual building, like the cases in the South End.

“As unacceptable as it is, we look at charging criminally for threats or violations of statutes. But just because at this point we may not see whether we have a crime doesn’t mean we won’t try to resolve it,” he said.

“If we knew who this was, we would try to have a conversation about being good neighbors. Our concern when you’re using inflammatory words or speech like this is that it could escalate to where you do have crimes being committed.”

The police at the scene told the family and representatives of Lutheran Social Services that they would likely increase their presence in the neighborhood after hearing from Gurung’s brother that some residents are bullying the new arrivals.

Other minority residents from the complex warned him groups of young white people will sometimes throw stones at them when their backs are turned, Lal Gurung said.

People also sometimes block the doors to the buildings or the landings of the stairways, and tell the immigrants they need to pay $5 or $10 to pass, he said.

The bullying can be especially prominent in the mornings and afternoons as refugee children go to and from their school bus stop, he said.

Sheri Powers, who said she has lived in the apartment complex for almost eight years, said she’s never seen anything like that, or like the notes on the Gurungs’ door.

“Most people get along with everybody here. In my building, I’ll say hi when I pass them. There’s no problems, except there’s a lot of them and a lot of them don’t speak English,” she said while standing outside her building across the parking lot from where the Gurungs were talking with the police and case workers.

“I don’t think it’s right for people to do something like that,” she said. “People have the right to live wherever they want.”

Another woman who was sitting on the steps talking with Powers had a different opinion.

“They probably did it to themselves looking to get attention,” she said as she went into the building.

Gurung, who works as a laborer at a farm, said through an interpreter that he understood settling into his new city would take time, and he still hopes to feel at home.

“In general people are very cooperative, and we feel we are at home when we arrived here. . . . It is a community wherever we go,” he said through an interpreter. “We have to adjust, both the new members and the longtime members. We have to cooperate with each other.”

Tips on the case can be shared anonymously by calling 226-3100, by visiting the Crimeline website, or by texting TIP234 and sending a message to CRIMES.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)


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