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After 12 acts of vandalism, Arcata sanctuary garden organizers demand help from city

 A large sign in front of a community garden, with drawings of people, food and animals. The sign says "Jardin Santuario Para Migrantes En Goudi'ni" along with contact information. Spray-painted across the sign in large letters are the words "USA Trump"
Centro Del Pueblo
The sign for Arcata's sanctuary garden, after it was vandalized in May, 2023.

Founders of a community garden for Latino and Indigenous migrants in Arcata, California are asking the city council to address ongoing hate crimes. The garden has been vandalized 12 times in the past year.

The Arcata sanctuary garden is a gathering space for migrant families and a place to grow foods from their home countries. But over the past year it’s faced a nonstop series of attacks, including spray painted hateful messages, trashed crops and locks and chains installed around the garden's gates. The group put up cameras this spring to prevent future acts, but they were stolen twice.

Brenda Perez is the executive director of the local nonprofit Centro Del Pueblo, which started the garden in 2021. She spoke at a city council meeting on June 6, asking the city to address the vandalism.

“[Arcata] cannot be called a sanctuary city with those hate crimes. And it’s a shame on this government," she said. "I cannot listen to more "sorrys" from you or from the police department. I need actions.”

Perez said her home is next to the garden, and vandals broke into her backyard recently to steal one of the cameras. She said she's scared for her family's safety.

Arcata Mayor Sarah Schaefer said the city council wants to do more to help protect the garden.

“It’s right in our backyard," she said. "And so it’s something that we want to help them be able to maintain to its fullest because it adds so much to our community.”

The City of Arcata is in the process of preparing its budget for the next fiscal year. Council members discussed creating a small discretionary fund they could use to help groups like Centro Del Pueblo, including giving them $5,000 dollars to get new cameras for the garden.

Perez said she wants the city to be more active in preventing future vandalism from happening.

"I am expecting much more discussions, public forums about racism and how this is affecting our mental and physical health," Perez said.

She said the vandalism and camera theft has hurt Centro Del Pueblo financially, and it's not sustainable to keep replacing cameras and fixing damage.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.