Santa Ana City Councilman Johnathan Hernandez blamed unnamed Middle Easterners for alleged attacks on Santa Ana food vendors in his comments at the last City Council meeting, on July 19, 2022, as seen in the above video at 6:14:10.
Hernandez claims the attacks have happened largely off of First St. and Raitt St. He mentioned one vendor who says he does not go past that intersection any more. He said two Middle Eastern men pulled over and robbed this vendor, allegedly taking $250.
Based on that one anecdote Hernandez is now asking the City Council to classify any attacks on street vendors as hate crimes.
We closely follow all crime reports in Santa Ana and cannot recall any crimes involving Middle Eastern suspects. The only Middle Easterners we know in Santa Ana are successful business people and home owners.
Is it possible that Hernandez, by blaming mysterious unnamed “Middle Easterners” is simply showing us what he really believes? According to the ADL, 31% of Hispanic immigrants score high on the ADL’s scale, as do 19% of U.S.-born Hispanics have Anti-Semitic views.
Among Latinos the Anti-Semitic attitudes are seen as a holdover from Latin America, where traditional Catholic anti-Semitism persists and anti-Semitic attitudes are higher than in America, according to the Washington Post.
When Hernandez referred to “Middle Easterners” he could have been referring to several different races including Jewish and Arab people.
If Hernandez is truly concerned about hate crime he should know that Hate crimes against people of Middle Eastern origin or descent in the U.S. increased from 354 attacks in 2000, to 1,501 attacks in 2001.
Hernandez is also young enough to have forgotten about Alex Odeh, a Palestinian civil rights activist who was assassinated in a bombing as he opened the door of his office at 1905 East 17th Street, Santa Ana. No one was ever arrested for that murder. Today you can see a memorial to Odeh at the Santa Ana Library, which features a statue of Odeh on the front lawn.
Hernandez, by impugning Middle Easterners in alleged attacks on street vendors, is advancing a dangerous narrative in a County where hate crimes against Middle Easterners have been on the rise. The OC Human Relations Commission reported 44 anti-Jewish and 22 anti-Muslim hate crimes in their 2019 Hate Crime report.
It is disturbing that Santa Ana Mayor Vince Sarmiento had no comments about Hernandez anti Middle Eastern rant during the City Council meeting on July 19. Perhaps this is because Sarmiento hails from Bolivia and Islamophobia is on the rise in that country according to the Shia News Association.
Should we be concerned about attacks on street vendors? Of course – but we should rightfully be concerned about crime against anyone in Santa Ana. As Councilmember Thai Viet Phan pointed out at the July 19 City Council meeting street vendors are not a Federally protected class so considering a new hate crime law regarding street vendors is ridiculous.
What Hernandez is doing with his proposal is grandstanding. He is in other words putting on a show to attract attention. If he was serious about stopping criminals he would support hiring more police officers but of course he is against this. Hernandez also regularly baits the SAPD and does his best to put our police officers in a bad light.
If Hernandez is truly concerned about attacks on street vendors he should note that most of these attacks are by gang members, who he often defends. Hernandez has publicly acknowledged that he was raised by gang members, in Santa Ana.
We should not tolerate Anti-Semitism by our elected City Council members.