On May 24 2020, police in San Leandro, California arrested — and then released — a woman revealed on social media as the person behind a string of racist letters harassing Asian-American residents.
According to authorities, 52-year-old Nancy Arechiga posted the rambling letter in at least five locations; besides homes, they believe Arechiga is responsible for posting a similar note on a trail near the Bay Area community, which is approximately 22 miles away from San Francisco. The San Jose Mercury News reported that Arechiga was actually arrested on an outstanding warrant. Police did not specify whether she would face additional charges related to her harassment campaign.
The newspaper reported:
A limited records search Saturday found Arechiga had been previously arrested in several Southern California cases on suspicion of several charges, including driving with a suspended license and modification of vehicle equipment in 2011, battery and disobeying a domestic court order in 2017, and infliction of injury on a spouse or co-habitant and trespass on closed lands in 2018.
Arechiga’s harassment spree was brought to light in a Facebook post by San Leandro resident, Trinh Wynn.
“This happened today, a white woman wearing a USA beanie targeted People of color homes with this letter at their front doors. This occurred in a quiet and well diverse middle-class community in San Leandro. My family’s house was also targeted.. We were able to capture all this on camera,” Wynn wrote. “There is no room for this hateful and despicable behavior in this society. If you recognize this woman, please report it to the police.”
Wynn’s post contained photographs of both Arechiga and her letter, which read in part:
You, because we consider you’re a stranger, one bad person for this country, leave, go far away, go back to your country, the place you belong. Leave this place. You have until the day May 23, 2020, Saturday 10:30 a.m. to leave this country place no Asian allowed. My Country USA.
RACIST LETTER: can you help identify this woman?
A family in San Leandro is asking for your help. They say this person is going around to homes belonging to people of color & taping these letters to the door. #racism #hate #COVID pic.twitter.com/BzFyS46JPs
— Dion Lim (@DionLimTV) May 23, 2020
That wasn’t the only racist letter found in San Leandro.
— Dion Lim (@DionLimTV) May 23, 2020
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Arechiga was arrested with a backpack containing still more copies of her screed. She was released from Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County in keeping with an emergency bail schedule implemented by the California Judicial Council in April 2020 that allows “persons accused of misdemeanors and other lower-level offenses” to be released prior to arraignment in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 within jails.
The Associated Press reported that while Arechiga was ordered to appear in court, her arraignment date has not been set.
“It just tells me they don’t take a hate crime seriously,” Wynn said of Arechiga’s release.
The hateful letters are just another manifestation of a wave of anti-Asian and anti-Asian-American activities that has surged amid the pandemic, inflamed by social media and xenophobic remarks by right-wing elected officials and media outlets.
“Repeatedly and publicly condemning racism is an important part of any government’s response to the coronavirus,” said John Sifton, Asia policy director for Human Rights Watch. “Governments also need to adopt special public education initiatives, strengthen policing of hate crimes, and offer support to communities victimized by discrimination and racially motivated attacks. “Social media companies have a responsibility to protect users against hateful and xenophobic content on their platforms, and should invest adequate resources to addressing it and mitigating its harm.”