'Go back to your country': Customer directs racist tirade at sushi restaurant owner in Palo Alto

The owner says it started with telling the customer they only take electronic payments, and ended in a 15-minute long racist rant.
PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Palo Alto Police confirm a hate investigation is underway after a customer at Fuki Sushi on El Camino Real went on a racist tirade, directed at the restaurant's owner.

At Fuki Sushi in Palo Alto, the signs are clear to see. Upon entering, customers are reminded the restaurant accepts, "electronic payment only." The move was made as a response to the on-going pandemic.

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However, on August 1, when a customer tried to pay in cash, a server attempted to explain the policy to him. His reaction was enough for restaurant owner, Lumi Gardner to step in.

"There was no warning," Gardner told ABC7 News. "It just went from, 'Oh, I'm so sorry, we're all electronic,' to eruption."

Gardner explained she was on the receiving end of a 15-minute racist tirade that spilled into the parking lot.

"Were you even born here? Did you even go to school here," she recalled of the customer's tantrum. "You're un-American. Go back to your country. We don't want you here!"

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Ask anyone, the restaurant is considered a beloved staple in the community. Gardner said her family opened Fuki Sushi back in 1978.

She said in all that time, she's never experienced an attack like this.

"I told him, I was like, 'You can't talk to people that way. I am a person, you don't talk to me that way,'" Gardner shared.

"Unfortunately, I wish to say I was surprised, but I'm not. It's unfortunately par for the course," Palo Alto Councilman Greg Tanaka told ABC7 News.

Councilman Tanaka was behind May's Stop AAPI Hate rally, which took place at City Hall.

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He said the attention being paid to this racist tantrum proves people are no longer tolerating such awful behavior.

"Maybe two years ago, three years ago, this would be just ignored," he said. "Just something that all Asian Americans kind of experience, and just kind of ignore it."

Pointing to similar experiences he's lived through, Tanaka said this about Palo Alto, "I think the average person in the city means well. They're actually good-hearted, but there are a few here who are not."

PAPD said they are classifying this as a "hate investigation," while working to answer whether there was an underlying crime committed. If so, this can be elevated to a hate crime.

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When ABC7 News asked Gardner if she had a message for the customer, she said she had nothing to say to him. She's only hoping that the attention being paid to this incident will bring people together, shifting focus to spreading kindness and tolerance of other people.

Word about the racist confrontation has led to overwhelming support for Gardner and Fuki Sushi staff from all around the country. Support also includes monetary donations. However, Gardner is asking that those resources be redirected to non-profits, supporting the AAPI community.

One specific organization shared by Gardner includes the San Francisco Foundation. Click here to be redirected.

Gardner said she believes this is an isolated incident, one that is not reflective of the city of Palo Alto which she regards highly.
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