Editor’s note: There are descriptions of racism in this article that may be disturbing to some.
Wasabi’s Bistro just outside of Homer was vandalized with a racist message sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
Orange spray paint was used to write “Leave our town,” “God will judg (sic) all nigers (sic),” and “Go back to Affrica (sic)” on the outside wall of the building near the main entrance. On a separate wall, the words “Trump 2020” were written in the same orange spray paint.
The bistro owners reported the vandalism to the Alaska State Troopers at about 7:55 a.m. when they found it, according to Sgt. Daniel Cox of the Anchor Point troopers post. It is under investigation.
Owner Colt Belmonte was there at Wasabi’s late Thursday morning getting ready to paint over the racist messages. Belmonte, who is white, owns the business with his wife Dali Frazier, who is black. They also owned the Alibi Bar and Cafe for five years before it was bought by their son, Nelton Palma.
As Belmonte pried open a can of blue paint, he said incidents like the racist vandalism are hurtful, but not at all surprising anymore. He pointed to a hole in the same wall made by a gunshot a few years ago, saying the bullet is still in there. He described how vandals also slashed the tires on his family vehicle a few years ago.
“They scratched the bug up,” Belmonte said. “They wrote ‘die n***** die’ and slashed the tires and scratched the paint up. We get letters every once in a while.”
“We hear things,” he continued. “And I don’t like to use the word, but … at the bar, you know, (we hear that) my wife is an ‘uppity n*****’ who should not own a business. (That) she doesn’t know where her place is. You know, you hear that all the time.”
Part of the message left on the bistro wall was for the family to go back to Africa. Belmonte grew up in Homer. After spending some time away, he moved back with his family in 1997.
“It’s saddening,” he said of the ongoing racist attacks against the family. “In this day and age?”
“I hate to make it political, but obviously it is,” he continued, gesturing to the “Trump 2020” spray paint on the other wall.
Asked whether incidents like this make Belmonte and his family question remaining in Homer, he said he and his wife “are done.”
“We don’t want to be here anymore,” he said.
Belmonte did say there are many in the community who reach out, apologize and offer to help when vandalism happens. He also said the people harassing the family are in the minority.
“It’s just a small handful of people, but they ruin it for everybody,” he said.
Belmonte said he thinks things have gotten worse since the 2016 election.
“I think our current presidency is letting these people have a voice,” he said. “They feel empowered, they feel whatever it is that they feel.”
Belmonte addressed the notion that Homer is the “Cosmic Hamlet” of the peninsula. He said in order to understand what things are really like, one has to be of color.
The vandalism is currently being investigated as a criminal mischief crime for damage to property, according to Cox. He said that if new evidence points to any additional crimes, they could be added.
“We look for evidence, we look for any video or witnesses,” Cox said.
Specifically, Cox said troopers want to know if anyone was at Wasabi’s over the course of Wednesday night.
“Basically we’re just asking if anybody saw a person or a vehicle at Wasabi’s between 11:30 p.m. last night to 7 (a.m.) this morning, to contact us and hopefully we can match up a person or a vehicle that was there and talk to them,” he said.
Cox said the investigation is ongoing and that troopers will publish any additional updates as they come.