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Protest Over Ho Chi Minh Poster Continues

Rally: Vietnamese immigrants are upset over video store displaying former leader's picture and Communist flag. Owner says items will stay in place.


WESTMINSTER — About 200 Vietnamese Americans continued protests Tuesday for a third day outside a video store in Little Saigon, where the owner had hung a photo of Ho Chi Minh and a Communist Vietnamese flag.

Anti-Communist sentiment continues to run high in the Vietnamese emigre community, underscoring how deeply members still feel about the war that ended in 1975.

"This is like putting up a picture of Hitler in the Jewish community," said protester Ngo Ky. "Ho Chi Minh was responsible for so many deaths. People have nightmares when they see his picture. Of course they are angry."

Truong Van Tran, 37, the owner of Hitek TV and VCR, did not show up at his store Tuesday, and security guards and police kept the area cordoned off. Tran had been hit Monday on the back of his head by a protester as he was leaving the store at 9550 Bolsa Ave. He has declined to file assault charges, Westminster police said.

On Tuesday, demonstrators hung a cardboard figure over the store that depicted Communist leader Ho Chi Minh with his neck in a noose. Later in the afternoon, they brought out a coffin, draped the South Vietnamese flag over it and filled it with photos of South Vietnamese soldiers who had died during the war.

The vast majority of Vietnamese Americans arrived in the United States as political refugees fleeing from the Communist regime that took over and reunited Vietnam in 1975. Southern California has the largest concentration of Vietnamese in the nation--an estimated 300,000 people. Little Saigon serves as the de facto capital for the immigrants.

The landlord of the shopping center, Danh Nhut Quach, said he is considering some way to evict Tran for disturbing the peace and disrupting business in the area. Police have blocked off parts of the shopping center.

The protest began Sunday when a video store visitor noticed the photo of the Communist leader and called others to protest. A store employee took it down, but Tran put it back on the wall along with a Communist Vietnamese flag when he reopened Monday. It remains in the locked store, visible through the windows.

Tran has said that he intends to keep the Communist items in place, and protesters vow to remain until he takes them down.

"He has a right to say what he wants, but we have the right to be here too," said Ky.

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