Fresno Goes Viral

Fresno Goes Viral
Menú del restaurante asiático “Tasty Thai”, ahora cerrado. Foto tomada del internet

This May, Fresno went viral. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for one of Fresno’s better moments. It was unusual to see the #559 hashtag blow up as multiple videos on TikTok had millions of views and thousands of likes and comments.

Maria Garcia posted a series of videos after spotting a dog panting outside in the heat. She immediately confronted the owner, yelling at him and accusing him of animal abuse for having the dog out in the heat. Having concern for an animal in the Central Valley heat is understandable—her following actions, however, are not.

The owner of the dog happened to be an older Asian man living near an Asian restaurant called Tasty Thai.

So what does Garcia do? She makes the leap of a lifetime. She decides to make a video accusing this random Asian restaurant of using dog meat. “It makes more sense they are using the meat, selling the meat,” she stated in a since deleted video.

She had no basis for her racist accusation, just an Asian man owning a dog and living within the vicinity of a restaurant. Did she have any evidence to support her racist claim? No. Nothing. She simply allowed her knowledge of disgusting and dangerous stereotypes to push an untrue narrative.

After investigating, the Fresno Police Department (FPD) determined that the dog was not being abused and that there was no evidence of dog meat being used or sold. The FPD even made a Facebook post regarding Garcia’s video:

“Recently, a short video depicting a female pit bull was uploaded to multiple social media accounts. The video alleged the pit bull was being abused. Fresno Police officers were quickly alerted to the situation and thoroughly investigated the incident. The short video posted on social media was a snapshot and did not show the complete and thorough picture of the incident. We are happy to report that the investigation revealed the dog was not abused…We would like to thank the community members that were concerned for the safety of the dog.”

Garcia even admitted that Fresno Humane Animal Services asked her to drop the accusations and leave the man and restaurant alone. She refused and claimed that she wouldn’t stop.

According to Soogia (a TikTok creator who has covered the story), Maria Alavers Garcia created the video and it gained traction when shared on Isabel Guzman’s TikTok page. Garcia has taken down the video and turned off her comments. Guzman posted an apology video later, but it was too little too late. Her account no longer exists.

David Rasavong, owner of Tasty Thai (which had only been open for eight months), became overwhelmed with phone calls and online harassment that included false accusations, racist slurs and death threats. To keep himself, his family and his employees safe, Tasty Thai was forced to shut down.

On May 18, they announced a temporary closing, “Due to the high amount of threats and harassment we’ve received, we have decided to temporarily close for our own safety and the safety of our staff. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

However, on May 30, another two posts were made, indicating the more permanent closing of the restaurant. “WE ARE CLOSING. Thank you to everyone who reached out in support during this challenging time.

“Your comments and messages have been a bright light in this whole situation. After much thought and consideration, we, as a family, have decided to close this location of Tasty Thai due to all the threats and harassment.”

They continued, “As immigrants, it has always been my parents’ dream to pass on the richness and traditions of our culture through food and service to the community. We are currently looking at a couple [of] options to relocate to and open a new Tasty Thai, in order to continue my parents’ dream.”

This is a heartbreaking and disappointing story. When people deny racism exists, they choose to ignore situations like this. If Garcia felt there was abuse, all she had to do was report it. Instead, she made up a story that destroyed the livelihood of the owners and employees of Tasty Thai. She put their lives in real danger over a baseless, hateful and ignorant accusation and defended her stance after evidence to the contrary was provided.

Author

  • Paulina Cruz

    Paulina Cruz is a fellow with the Community Alliance newspaper. She is a Mexican immigrant currently attending Fresno State. She is currently working on an anthropology major with a minor in psychology. She spends her free time writing poetry or painting.

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Cindy Simpson
Cindy Simpson
9 months ago

Someone should contact the ACLU unless there is a local lawyer who is willing to take on a lawsuit on the restaurant’s behalf and sue Garcia for her careless and financially ruinous libel and slander. Until people are held accountable for their vicious unfounded posts, reputations and livelihoods will continue to be trashed in social media. They are fortunate that the idiots who called with death threats did not act on them. If they had, hopefully criminal charges would have been levied against Garcia for inciting violence.

Mike Rhodes
Admin
5 months ago

Here is an update to the article:

David Rasavong and his wife Anna Nguyen held a Grand Opening of their restaurant Love & Thai today. That is Fresno City Councilman Luis Chavez on the right. You might remember the story a few months ago when Rasavong had to close down his restaurant when a neighbor posted (falsely) on social media that he used dog meat in the meals he served. The racist accusation went viral in May 2023 (see https://fresnoalliance.com/fresno-goes-viral/) and destroyed the business.

Rasavong worked with the Fresno Police Department, was able to clear his name and with the help of the community was able to open a new business – Love and Thai. This is a great story about how we Stop the Hate, build community and get some really good food in the bargain.

Love and Thai is at 4821 E Butler Avenue in Fresno. Show your support – Spread the love one bite at a time.

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