Occupy Hospitality. Occupy <3
LOWELL — Dozens of area veterans plan on filling “every chair” at the Babylon restaurant tonight for an “eat-in” to show their support after an unidentified man vandalized the Iraqi-owned business.
A witness reported seeing a male suspect exiting the passenger side of a vehicle last Wednesday at 3 a.m., and hurling a large building stone, about 20 pounds, through the restaurant window. The witness was able to give the vehicle’s New Hampshire license-plate number to police.
Lowell Police Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee said yesterday officers are investigating the incident.
"At this time, there is nothing to indicate this is, indeed, a hate crime," Lavallee said. "We will continue to pursue this matter and hopefully resolve it soon."
Patrick Scanlon, coordinator of Veterans for Peace, said that until police can prove otherwise, evidence suggests the restaurant was targeted based on who the owners are.
"I find it hard to believe that somebody is going to pull up at 3 a.m., with a 20-pound stone and randomly pick the Middle Eastern store out of all the other businesses on the street," Scanlon said. "In my opinion, this was a hate crime."
Tonight [Jan. 10], from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., local veterans plan to fill the restaurant, on Merrimack Street near Bridge Street in downtown Lowell, and give it their business. They’ll also stand outside with a flag to show support for Babylon’s owner, Leyla Al-Zubaydi, and her father, Ahmed Al-Zubaidi.
Several of the veterans joining the movement have served in Iraq, Scanlon said.
Most of the Iraqi refugees who live locally have worked with the coalition forces in some way, putting themselves and their families’ lives in danger.
Following the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., Uzbekistan won favor in Washington by allowing a military base there, affording ready access across the Afghan border.
In 2003, Ahmed Al-Zubaidi, a respected journalist, broadcast a special report detailing Saddam Hussein’s torturing of Iraqis.
Soon after the broadcast, Al-Zubaidi said he received threatening phone calls. Then one night, on his way home from eating dinner with friends, he said he was attacked in the street and severely beaten by six men. Left for dead, he said he spent two months recovering in a hospital. After his release, he no longer focused his reporting on charged political issues, instead working on feature stories and managing two restaurants.
His family immigrated to the U.S. in January 2011.