BOISE - Residents crowded a Boise restaurant Friday afternoon to show their support after the eatery was vandalized with racist remarks written in chalk earlier this week.
Owner and operator of The Goodness Land, Salam Bunyan, came to Boise as an Iraqi refugee 10 years ago and has since gained citizenship.
A swastika, the SS symbol and bigoted messages were written around 10 p.m. Tuesday night.
The message has been erased and the word "unity" is written in its place.
Crystal Rose was one of several who were waiting outside The Goodness Land before it opened Friday.
She says she didn’t come there to eat, but rather show her support for Bunyan by fighting chalk with chalk.
“I just can’t sit back and watch it, and if all I can do is bring down chalk in here and write one word then at least I’m doing something,” says Rose.
Plenty of people did come to eat though - the majority of whom o say they had never been there before.
“Well, I do like Mediterranean food but I heard the story what happened and so I just thought I would come here today and show support for the restaurant owner,” says James North of Boise.
“We saw the newscast last night,” says Matt Williams of Kuna.
Bunyan says customers usually start to file in around 2 p.m., but business started early Friday.
There were few empty tables by noon.
“To see this beautiful lady what she’s doing with these nice words, I’m very happy to see all these people,” says Bunyan.
Bunyan has been a U.S. citizen for the past five years and has been operating The Goodness Land for a year.
He says he's living the American dream - but achieving it hasn't been easy.
Bunyan's restaurant was originally located in the International Market, but was burned to the ground when the market was intentionally set on fire in 2015.
“It’s not easy, with kids it’s not easy, but when I see great people, beautiful town, and when you ask people for help you find thousands of people just who want to help, no one care where you’re from,” says Bunyan.
It’s a dream many of his new customers respect.
“He’s come to this country and he started a business, you got to admire him and a lot of other refugees to do that are not waiting for the government to support them, they are working extremely hard to run a successful business and that should be admired,” says North.
As for the hateful vandalism, Bunyan says it won't bring him down,
“Just give the people a chance, don’t judge anyone,” says Bunyan.
And customers say, they won’t tolerate it.
“I think that we have to be smart and not have short memories, if we dial it back far enough generationally I mean that’s most of our stories, we all came here from somewhere else to me it’s exciting to see someone like that come from another part of the world and pursue his dream and we get a great restaurant,” says Williams.
“This is America, this is what people came to America for, he is living his American dream,” says Rose.
As for the vandal, Boise police say they have received several tips that they are following up on, but the suspect has not been caught yet.
He is described as white, between the ages of 20 and 30 and could face a felony charge of malicious harassment.
Anyone with any information is asked to call police.
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