Police Investigate Hate Crime in Palo Alto

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Police are searching for a person who they said changed a “Black Lives Matter” sign to read “Asian Lives Matter” in Palo Alto, something police said qualifies as a hate crime. 

“I’ve never felt threatened,” said Evan, who lives near Park Boulevard. 

There, you’ll find wisteria, roses and a little free library. It’s also the scene of a hate crime, disturbing to Evan who grew up there.

Police said someone stuck a paper saying “Asian” over the word “Black” on a Black Lives Matter sign. 

The sign owner said the sign was damaged when they tried to remove the paper, and police said that’s why this is being investigated as a hate crime.

“We’ve had signs draped over, signs covered it up but this one damaged the sign so there’s the distinction between hate crime and hate incident,” said Lieutenant James Reifschneider. “The motivation may be the same but in one instance there’s a crime of vandalism and the other no underlying crime.”

Some wonder why this is being a hate crime when other recent high-profile incidents were not.  For example, anti-Semitic flyers found in Palo Alto and half a dozen Bay Area cities.  

Police said that while the message on those flyers was offensive, it’s also protected as free speech. As long as the flyers don’t threaten violence or damage property, they don’t constitute a hate crime. 

“The jewish community spent a lot of money on security. It's like a fortress going to the synagogues now,” said Jerry, a neighbor. 

Palo Alto police said that those who feel like victims should come forward because whether it’s reported as a hate crime or hate incident, the case will be documented.

“Sometimes it can escalate into criminal manner, so it’s better to document the non-criminal incident,” said Reifschneider. “The city said it’s committed to sharing these cases with the community in hopes of preventing this type of behavior.”

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