San Diego illustrator accused of defacing SF Chinatown murals; artist calls it hate crime

A vandal has struck at least twice in San Francisco's Chinatown in Kerouac Alley, defacing a series of murals there.

The muralist calls it a hate crime, and now is working to restore the art.

The artwork pays respect to Asian ancestry and Asian icons like Bruce Lee. Over the last few weeks someone has come by repeatedly to scrawl on the artwork. The vandal was caught on camera.

Muralist, MaCanna Yo, says months ago these walls were an eyesore, but she and another muralist saw an opportunity to create art.

They began work in February, but twice, once in April and again in May someone scrawled on the art work, some of the vandalism anti-Asian in nature. 

"There was a hate crime incident that took place on the Cai Shen mural, the god of wealth and prosperity as well as a lot of these zodiac warriors were defaced as well as the restoration of the Bruce Lee mural," said Yo.

Yo says nearby security cameras caught the vandal in the act. "The person was recognized by a So Cal artist who knows their handwriting. They also signed their work," said Yo. "So, during the first incident in April he tagged Cai Shen's face, but he signed it with his name. He's not a tagger, but an illustrator from San Diego."

That information has been turned over to San Francisco police, but the damage has already been done.

So, the muralist started a gofundme page, hoping to raise $1,300 to repair and protect the work. In just 24 hours, donors pledged more than twice that amount.

"We are really grateful for all the donations that have started to come in overnight which makes it possible for me to buy the anti-graffiti coating to seal these murals once they're restored," said Yo.

Hoi Leung from San Francisco's Chinese Culture Center says public art celebrating Chinese culture is an important addition to the neighborhood, and deserves protecting. 

"Especially now with so much anti-Asian hate and also different stigmatization around Chinatown, it's more important now than ever to support art and culture in order to reclaim our stories and reclaim our narratives," says Leung.

The gofundme account to restore and protect the artwork in this alley originally aimed to raise $1,300, is North of $4,030 now. The artist tells KTVU the money will go to restore and protect the murals in the alley, and excess funds will go to help create more public art in Chinatown.