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United States

Venezuelan flag stolen various times from Seattle restaurant

Owners of the Venezuelan fusion restaurant have seen their flag disappear three times since Trump took office. Two of the robberies were accompanied by verbal assaults against immigrants.
9 Mar 2017 – 01:04 PM EST
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A Venezuelan restaurant in Seattle's University District neighborhood has had its flag stolen three times since January, says co-owner Felix Valderrama. Valderrama says the incidents stemmed from anti-immigrant hate.

The first time was the day after the inauguration of president of Donald Trump: a woman ripped down the flag, yelling insults. A few days later, it was stolen overnight. Then, a week later, another woman snatched the flag in the morning.

"She told me that Trump was going to take care of people like us and that he did not want us in this country, that we take everything we own and get out of here," Valderrama says.

For now, he has decided to replace the flag with an American one, "until things calm down."

"Things have happened to us in the first weeks of Trump's presidency that hadn’t happened in the previous year-and-a-half since we opened," says this Venezuelan, who has been living in the United States for 18 years.

Reluctance to report to police

Valderrama decided not to report any of the incidents to police, as she says he doubted whether they would believe him.

That’s not uncommon, says Mark Potok, senior researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that monitors hate across the country. "The lack of reporting of hate crimes is a big problem in the United States," he says.

Undocumented people, especially, rarely inform the police, he says.

A lack of reporting of hate incidents and crimes is a major problem, SPLC explained in a report published after the presidential election. In addition, the study noted that immigrants, primarily Latinos and Muslims, had become the main targets of hate and bias-fueled violence in recent months.

Univision learned about Valderrama's story through Documenting Hate, a project that is tracking bias incidents and hate crimes around the country since the presidential election. If you have a story you’d like to report, you can do so here.

Of crimes that are reported to police, attacks on property or businesses tend to comprise a small portion. According to FBI data on hate crimes from 2015, there were 310 such attacks among the 5,725 total crimes committed against individuals.

Jews tend to suffer the most attacks on properties, like synagogues or cemeteries, as has been demonstrated in recent weeks with a wave of bomb threats to Jewish community centers and desecration of various cemetaries.

Valderrama says he plans to go to police if something happens again. He’s been training his employees to record aggressions on their cell phones.

"We have to document what is happening and share it with other people so they know what to do."

Mario Zavaleta contributed reporting to this article.