Merchants worry that continuing demonstrations against Viet Weekly magazine might hurt business
By DEEPA BHARATH
The Orange County Register
GARDEN GROVE Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Merchants on Main Street are eager to see the end of protests by the Vietnamese-American community against a magazine, which, the protesters say, sympathizes with communists and terrorists.
The protests on Main Street against Viet Weekly started July 21 when nearly 1,000 people crowded Main Street in front of the magazine’s headquarters.
Since then, protesters have filled Main Street and its narrow sidewalks shouting slogans and holding banners every weekend. Organizers of the protest don’t believe they’ll call off the demonstrations any time soon, and the magazine’s publisher, Le Vu, has repeatedly said he will not change the kind of articles that run in Viet Weekly. Vu says his magazine is interested in presenting “all sides of a story” Ã¢â‚¬â€œ including the communists’ side.
Now, merchants on Main Street, who say the protests are slowing down their already sluggish business, are wondering when they’ll get their street back.
“I don’t deny that they have their right to protest,” said David Zlaket, owner of Zlaket’s Market that has been on the street 60 years. “But when they block the entrance to my store or another store, they’re hurting business.”
But protesters are offended by the magazine, which they say, once took the side of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists.
“We respect the magazine’s freedom to write what they want to write,” said Long Pham, one of the protest organizers. “But if we believe their articles are one-sided, unfair and offensive, we have the right to protest.”
Truong Doan, another organizer, says he understands that it can be an inconvenience to the businesses but says he also believes he has “an obligation to speak out.”
“Viet Weekly would like to say that they present balanced stories,” he said. “They present the communists’ side 80 percent of the time and the other side only 20 percent.”
Vu has denied that allegation and says protesters have taken several pieces of information out of context.
“Our goal is to write objective stories based on in-depth reporting,” he said.
Valerie Ward, who owns a hair salon on Main, said her clients Ã¢â‚¬â€œ many of them senior citizens Ã¢â‚¬â€œ are intimidated by the protesters.
“We don’t know what these protesters are saying in Vietnamese,” she said. “But they’re really loud, which can make you wonder whether they are going to start flipping and burning cars pretty soon.”
Ward added that the protesters have been peaceful and well-mannered so far.
“But it might be really nice if they move to a park or an area where it doesn’t directly affect people,” she said.
The protesters are mostly there during the weekend, but they showed up once on a Thursday and Main Street had to shut down, said Scott Weimer, president of the Downtown Business Association and owner of the building where Viet Weekly rents space.
“There was so much noise that we just couldn’t function,” he said.
Parking is also a problem on Main Street and is exacerbated by the demonstrations, Weimer said.
He said he is not about to evict Viet Weekly because of the protests.
“To me they seem like decent, honest, hard-working people,” he said. “I’ve never read their magazine. I know they’re writing controversial articles, but this is the USA and here, we have freedom of the press.”
You would think that they would have made their point by now and moved on.Ã‚Â But like the Trunglodytes* they just cannot let go.Ã‚Â I wonder if this would be going on this long if it was hurting primarily Vietnamese run businesses?
*Trunglodyte – (noun) A lemming-like follower of Trung Nguyen and his master Assemblyman Van Tran.