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Police, Panel Probe Racial Slurs Against Deli Owner

August 07, 1986|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

Glendale police and the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission are investigating reports of vandalism and racial slurs against a black woman who owns a Glendale delicatessen.

Laurette Yates said derogatory graffiti have been scrawled on the doors of her Brand Boulevard delicatessen and racial insults have been directed at her and her 17-year-old daughter, Michelle, over the last six months. Yates said a tire on her car was slashed several months ago while it was parked behind the shop.

Yates and a Canadian partner opened the delicatessen, in the 200 block of Brand Boulevard, in October, and she said the graffiti and slurs began in February. Yates said graffiti, written with a blue marking pen, appeared regularly until last month when she grew tired of washing it off. Some of the marks remained on the doors three weeks until a Glendale anti-graffiti worker was sent to clean the doors Monday.

Passers-By Shout Slurs

Yates also said passers-by continue to shout racial slurs at her about twice weekly. She said one man mocked her by suggesting that she sell "chitlins," a pork byproduct popular among some blacks and Southerners. She described the abusers as being of all ages and types. One customer, whom she described as a white, Spanish-speaking male in his early 30s, refused to pay for his sandwich until he was forced to do so by employees at the delicatessen, Yates said.

"It's so depressing and embarrassing," said Yates, 38, who said she operated a similar delicatessen in downtown Los Angeles several years ago. She said there were no racial attacks against her during the three years she ran that store, at 9th and Hill streets.

Yates said she and her partner decided to open the Glendale store "because we thought Glendale would be a good place to do business." Yates, who is from Montreal, said she had been working as a beautician there and in New York for several years. She has never before been subjected to racial slurs, she said.

"I never thought this could happen to me in Glendale," she said.

Yates did not report the incidents to police, she said, because she believed nothing could be done. Police Sgt. Steve Campbell said he and county human relations officials met with Yates after Campbell learned of her plight through local newspaper accounts.

"We are hoping to find out who is responsible for this," Campbell said, adding that scrawling graffiti is a misdemeanor.

"We will do everything in our power to see that this doesn't happen again," he said.

Campbell said racial attacks are "extremely rare" in the city, but noted that there are only a few black-owned businesses in town. Glendale had a black population of less than 1% in 1980, according to the U. S. Census Bureau.

Encouraged to Stay

The Knock Out Graffiti in Glendale Committee has offered to paint the doors at the delicatessen with special paint that is easy to clean. Yates said several state, county, city and civic officials, as well as residents and neighboring businesses, have contacted her to apologize for the harassment and to encourage her to stay in town.

Roger Ragan, assistant director of the county Department of Human Services, said racist graffiti have been reported twice before in Glendale this year. He said the home of a Filipino woman was defaced by derogatory graffiti, as was the home of an interracial couple in Montrose.

Ragan said the three incidents are believed to be unrelated. He said such attacks usually are carried out by one or a few persons.

The county is "monitoring the situation" in Glendale, he said, and "will continue to marshal support" for Yates. Ragan said he is "quite encouraged" by the positive response of the community.

Ragan said 68 incidents of racial or religious vandalism were reported countywide through May this year, far more than the rate in any previous year since the county began keeping statistics in 1981. The highest number of complaints for an entire year, 116, occurred in 1982

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