BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
The vandalism and attack on San Francisco’s Krouzian-Zekarian Vasbouragan school and the adjacent community center will be investigated as a hate crime, the San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced late Friday.
“We are absolutely treating this investigation as a hate crime. It is outrageous. It is an attack on every single one of us in San Francisco. There is no place for intolerance or hate,” Boudin told KTVU 2, the local FOX affiliate in San Francisco.
On Friday, San Francisco Armenian community members woke up to the horrific site of anti-Armenian—pro-Azerbaijani—graffiti spray painted on the walls of the school, which is a pre-K to eight grade school run by the Board of Regents of the Prelacy Armenian Schools. The adjacent community center, on Brotherhood Way, was also vandalized with hate speech.
Community leaders and members, among them the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Kristapor chapter and the Armenian National Committee of America San Francisco Bay Area chapter, as well as KZV principal Grace Andonian and school staff rushed to the scene where they were met by San Francisco Police, which began immediately began an investigation.
The ANCA-SF Bay Area chapter and school officials have been working with law enforcement authorities.
Andonian, KZV’s principal, released video surveillance to San Francisco Police showing multiple men vandalizing the school property around 2 am. She also handed remnants, like paint cans, to the police.
“I am very overwhelmed. I am in shock. I am so sad to see this kind of hate messages written on the walls of a school where children learn,” Andonian told KPIX 5.
The Bay Area Armenian American community immediately rallied in solidarity with KZV Armenian School, by gathering at the school grounds on Friday afternoon to support community efforts as well to express outrage at the hate crimes.
Local ANCA members Roxanne Makasdjian and Haig Baghdassarian were joined by school principal Andonian and St. Gregory Armenian Church parish priest Very Reverend Smpad Saboundjian to share insights about the ongoing Azerbaijani aggression with local news stations and update the community on next steps.
Baghdassarian told the ABC7 San Francisco that Friday’s incident was not an isolated attack, “Throughout the world, including in Russia, Ukraine, Germany. Now, it’s landed on our shore.”
This hate crime follows a pattern of racially-motivated attacks against Armenians, including the mob attacks against Armenians by Azerbaijanis in Russia, an arson attack on an Armenian embassy vehicle in Germany, and the deliberate burning down of an Armenian business in Ukraine. A similar incident involving racially charged anti-Armenian vandalism of Armenian schools in Los Angeles took place last year, forcing these schools to be on high alert to closely monitor the situation.
The ANCA-Western Region condemned the incident “in the strongest possible terms” stating: “We call on the governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey to immediately cease their state-sponsored and instigated campaigns of toxic Armenophobia. We further call on the international community – ranging from national governments to nonprofits alike – to decry this global assault campaign against Armenians and call for an immediate cessation of provocations. Finally, we call upon our community to stay vigilant against any suspicious activity, immediately report such activity to law enforcement, and refrain from giving in to any provocation.”
“The many hateful, profane, and graphic messages and images painted across the front of the school are a vile and cowardly attempt to harass and intimidate the Bay Area Armenian American community and are an affront to the decency, good conscience and tolerance of the majority of Bay Area citizens,” said the ANCA-SF Bay Area chapter in a statement issued late Friday calling for action and condemnation.
Armenia’s Consulate General in Los Angeles also “strongly condemned” the vandalism in San Francisco. Earlier this week, in condemning the violence at the L.A. protest, the Consulate called it an “orchestrated” effort by the Azerbaijani state.
“The vandalism at educational institution testifies toward the fact that the Armenian community of California has become a victim of a hate crime apparently organized by the Azerbaijanis,” said the Armenian Consulate’s in its statement on Friday.
“The Consulate General of Armenia in Los Angeles strongly condemns the act of vandalism and manifestation of hatred directed at the Armenian educational institution and the entire Armenian Community of the Bay Area,” added the Consulate. “The Consulate General of Armenia expresses hope that law enforcement will duly investigate, reveal and punish its perpetrators.”
“When hate crimes such as this are left unchecked and unpunished, perpetrators and their supporters are emboldened to carry out further, more egregious crimes,” added the ANCA-SFBA chapter. “We call upon San Francisco elected officials and community leaders to condemn this hate crime and we urge our law enforcement agencies to vigorously investigate, identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”
Condemnations from federal, state and local official began pouring in immediately with Boudin, the S.F. District Attorney being the first to express outrage at the hate attack.
“Someone vandalized the Armenian school/community center. I’m outraged. This is totally inconsistent with San Francisco values. It is also a CRIME,” said Boudin on Twitter Friday. “We are working with San Francisco Police Department to investigate. We stand with our Armenian brothers and sisters.”
Someone vandalized the Armenian school/community center. I’m outraged. This is totally inconsistent with San Francisco values. It is also a CRIME. We are working with @sfpd to investigate. We stand with our Armenian brothers and sisters.https://t.co/xUp2FYqGT4
— Chesa Boudin 博徹思 (@chesaboudin) July 24, 2020
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, in a Saturday morning Twitter post said: “Each and every one of us has a duty to stand up to hate wherever it appears. The KZV Armenian School is a part of the beautiful fabric of our San Francisco family. The hateful defacing of this place of community & learning is a disgrace.”
Each and every one of us has a duty to stand up to hate wherever it appears. The KZV Armenian School is a part of the beautiful fabric of our San Francisco family. The hateful defacing of this place of community & learning is a disgrace.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 25, 2020
Pelosi was joined by fellow Bay Area Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who also Tweeted Saturday saying, “The vandalism scarring the KZV School and Armenian Community Center must be investigated. It is an act of hate and should be considered a hate crime. My heart goes out to KZV’s students, teachers and parents. The perpetrators must be brought to justice.”
The vandalism scarring the KZV School and Armenian Community Center must be investigated. It is an act of hate and should be considered a hate crime. My heart goes out to KZV’s students, teachers and parents. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. pic.twitter.com/MwXUIymIc1
— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) July 25, 2020
Local officials also condemned the hate act, with San Francisco Mayor London Breed Tweeting: “Hate like this has no place anywhere in San Francisco, especially at a school. This is shameful. The Armenian community is an important part of our city, and we stand with them.”
Hate like this has no place anywhere in San Francisco, especially at a school. This is shameful. The Armenian community is an important part of our city, and we stand with them. https://t.co/MB9PtgslhU
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) July 25, 2020
Norman Yee, the President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors said on Friday, “I stand firmly with the Armenian community. These acts of violence and vandalism are unacceptable. This school is a sanctuary for students, families, and the greater community. During a time of unrest, we must unify not incite more fear and distrust. I am grateful that our law enforcement agencies are taking this hate crime seriously.”
California State Senators Anthony Portantino and Scott Wiener joined the chorus of official condemnations.
“Our children’s schools should not be subjected to racist and hateful graffiti. The incident at the The Krouzian-Zekarian Armenian School and its adjacent Armenian Community Center in San Francisco last night must be condemned and investigated,” said Portantino.
“Those responsible must be identified and face legal consequences. According to newspaper accounts the graffiti appears to be Azerbaijani-centric. I call on Azerbaijan to stop the unprovoked violence on the Armenian boarder and end this assault on American institutions where we send our children,” added Portantino.
“This hateful attack against KZV Armenian School in San Francisco is beyond despicable. We must rally to support our Armenian neighbors. We won’t tolerate these attacks in our community,” Senator Wiener Tweeted on Saturday.
This hateful attack against KZV Armenian School in San Francisco is beyond despicable. We must rally to support our Armenian neighbors. We won’t tolerate these attacks in our community. https://t.co/Y1V5qXV4rz
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) July 24, 2020
The Armenian-American community in the Bay Area now has the tough task of cleaning up and dealing with the reality of the hate at its doorstep, which includes explaining to young children why their beloved school was targeted. The school has set up a GoFundMe fundraising effort to help defray the costs of the cleanup, as the school now has added expenses during the global COVID-19 pandemic
“I’m disturbed, and I’m very disappointed. Thank God the students are not here to see this,” Andonian, the school’s principal told local media Friday.