A Texas ramen restaurant was covered in racist graffiti after its chef and owner spoke against the governor's decision to lift mask mandates.
Mike Nguyen arrived at his San Antonio restaurant Sunday to find it covered in anti-Asian and threatening phrases, according to pictures shared with NBC affiliate WOAI.
Red spray paint on a window of his Taiwanese ramen spot Noodle Tree read "Kung Flu" while an outside table was covered in the words "Go back to China."
"Hope you die," was written on another window, while "No mask" was written on the door.
"They wrote on my table, 'Go back to China,' even though I'm not of Chinese descent," Nguyen told TODAY.com. "I was really upset and shocked that it actually went this far. Some of the wording, it hit really close to home."
The incident comes amid a nationwide rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, bias incidents and racism since the start of the pandemic. It also follows Nguyen's public criticism of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to lift mask mandates in the state.
Nguyen appeared on CNN last week, saying Abbott's "decision to drop the mask mandate is selfish and cowardly. There’s no reason to do it."
“A lot of us feel like he’s putting a lot of us in danger," he continued. "At a time where we need him to be a leader, he’s not being a leader."
Nguyen predicted he may be targeted because of the interview.
“Since I’m an Asian American, we’ve seen a lot of attacks against Asian Americans and that’s a huge concern for me,” he said.
Nguyen had also expressed his reticence on Instagram, but ultimately concluded that speaking out was the right thing to do.
"I had some hesitation doing my interview today with CNN bc of the potential backlash I could face, but it needed to be said. We are Texans and what we do especially in San Antonio is have each others backs during times of need," he wrote.
The San Antonio Police Department is investigating the hateful graffiti.
"I try not to display my anger when I see things like this, but I mean, that’s nothing but a bigoted, cowardly move to do something like that it’s just not, it’s not San Antonio by any means," Police Chief William McManus said Monday.
Nguyen told the San Antonio Current that he is requiring masks for his customers' safety and also his own. The chef was recently diagnosed with lymphoma.
"A lot of people will recover from the virus if they contract it, but I have a very low chance of survival if I do," he said.
"It’s terrifying to think of what that could do to me," Nguyen said. "I do need my dining room to be open, but I have an illness that could prove fatal if I contracted COVID-19."
"If my business closes, it'll close because I wasn't willing to put people’s lives on the line," he added.
Nguyen's website is clear: "We will require you to wear a mask to enter the building. If you choose not to wear a mask, you can dine in our outdoor patio."
Comments on Noodle Tree's Instagram were overwhelmingly supportive, with one customer promising "to order the whole damn menu" and another offering to help with clean-up.
Guests did end up helping clean the windows, and Noodle Tree opened only an hour later than usual on Sunday,
And by Monday, Noodle Tree's windows were covered in paper hearts with encouraging messages, according to the restaurant's Instagram account.
"On Sunday our window was (filled) with hate and ignorance, but by Monday our windows was full of love and support. That’s such a powerful message we are sending," Nguyen wrote.
"As Texans, this is who we are, this is what we do. We're a tight-knit community, especially going through the hard times," Nguyen told TODAY.com. "And this showed that we're not going to tolerate this kind of behavior, this hatred, this racism. We're not going to do it."