UNION CITY -- Police are investigating a hate crime after vandals spray-painted graffiti on two Filipino-American businesses in the Old Alvarado neighborhood over the weekend.

The vandalism, which appears to be linked to a local middle school being renamed after Filipino-American labor leaders, was discovered Monday on a sign at the Filipino Community Center at 3939 Smith St., police Cmdr. Ben Horner said.

Vandals had crossed out the word "Filipino" and scrawled a word above "community." An expletive was written underneath them.

Graffiti was also located on the front of a nearby business, Toppings Too, a nearby Filipino restaurant at 3910 Smith St., Horner said. An expletive was written on one side of the restaurant's entrance door with "AMS" on the other side of the door.

"Some might think that infers Alvarado Middle School," Horner said Tuesday.

That's because the New Haven Unified school board recently approved renaming the school after Filipino-American labor leaders. The board became the nation's first to name a campus in honor of Filipino-Americans, but the renaming process -- deemed murky and rushed even by supporters -- left the school community divided.

The school board voted 3-2 on April 16 to rename the school Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School after Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, who helped organize the farm labor movement with Cesar Chavez in the 1960s.

In Union City, one of every five residents and one of every three students is of Filipino heritage.


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The graffiti on both businesses is written in similar handwriting, Horner said.

Horner said police are investigating the case as a hate crime, a felony punishable by civil fines and prison time.

Anyone with information about the vandalism can call police at 510-471-1365. Anonymous tips can be left at 510-675-5207 or by emailing tips@unioncity.org.

Chris De Benedetti contributed to this report. Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.