ANCHORAGE Vandals smashed several hundred thousand dollars in computers, presses and other equipment at a printing company owned by a prominent Arab-American businessman and scrawled anti-Arab graffiti on a wall, Anchorage Police Chief Walt Monegan said.
The break-in at Frontier Printing Services is the first hate crime in Anchorage stemming from the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon, Monegan said. Police and the FBI are investigating the vandalism, which occurred between 9:30 p.m. Friday and 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
The business is owned by Mike Maad, a 20-year Anchorage resident. Family members said the vandalism was discovered when Maad's son stopped by the shop Saturday to pick up American flags Maad is distributing in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
On one wall of the shop, Maad said, the vandals spray-painted "We hate Arabs."
"I don't think they're any better than the terrorists," Monegan said. "They may think they're patriotic, but they're not. They're criminals."
Monegan said he hopes investigators can pinpoint the time of the break-in by the times that the damaged computers ceased functioning.
Maad is a vice president of Bridge Builders, a group that tries to foster understanding among Anchorage's various ethnic groups. Maad designed and helped produce the 50-foot banners that were signed by thousands of Anchorage residents and sent to New York City and Washington, D.C.
A number of Arab-American businesses in the city have received threatening phone calls, Monegan said. Extra patrol cars are monitoring those businesses and the two mosques in Anchorage.
In a column that appeared in the Anchorage Daily News two days after the terrorist attacks, Maad expressed his "overwhelming sadness and disbelief that such a horrible act of violence could be committed here in the United States or for that matter anywhere in the world."
In the newspaper piece, he said he hoped people in Anchorage and around the nation "will focus their anger toward those responsible for this act and not paint all Arabs with the same brush."
Another Bridge Builders official, Malcolm Roberts, said the attack on Maad's business is "more than a shame.
"This man (Maad) has been a true American," Roberts said. "He's had the courage to speak out for freedom."
Roberts called for the community to come together in support of Maad and other Arab Americans. Maad is originally from Damascus, Syria, and came to America after graduating from high school.
He said Saturday night that he had hesitated before taking such a public stance in Anchorage on behalf of Arab-Americans after the terrorist attacks.
"Now I'm going to need to be a little more careful," he said. "I thought, and I still feel, this is a great city. Whoever did this is just as small of a minority as those people in New York who did those things."