Hmong Garden Controversy

October 21, 2008 8:30:21 PM PDT
The emotional fight over a small garden grown by Hmong farmers on Fresno City property is taking an ugly turn.City planners want to bulldoze the current garden at Belmont and Dewitt. And move it to Melody Park at Fowler and Shields Avenue.

Fresno City Council Members agreed to reconsider moving the community garden. More than a dozen Hmong families grow Southeast Asian vegetables on this property. Monday night, they held a news conference here and our cameras were rolling when a city official used offense language as tempers flared.

Hmong farmers and their supporters urged the City Council to not move the garden nearly three miles to Melody Park.

Hmong Garden Supporter Joshua Cranston said, "The Melody Park site is 1/8th the size of the current garden and won't be ready for months. How are these people going to eat? How is taking food away from 300 people in the best interest of the community? "

Applause broke out when councilmember's agreed to reconsider the move. But Monday night ... The emotions were much different.

Summer Vue: "I'm not here to argue with you ... "

Monica Yang: "Keep your facts straight before you say anything."

City staff member Monica Yang disrupted the farmers' press conference. Yang is Hmong. She works for Councilmember Paul Caprioglio and has been negotiating the garden issue on behalf of the councilmember. Action News cameras recorded the moment she used two derogatory words to insult the Hmong farmers' spokesperson.

Monica Yang said, "So go on, go on. I'm letting you go on ... f*** you b***** ... "

On Tuesday ... Yang acknowledged she used the offense language and apologized. She declined an on camera interview. Her boss ... Councilmember Caprioglio said he did not personally hear the insults and will handle Yang's inappropriate language as an internal personnel matter. The councilmember offered brief comments to those who attended Tuesday's meeting.

Paul Caprioglio said, "I'm a little disappointed as the interpretation as to what happened the past week or so. But I must remind you ... we all must keep an open mind."

Councilmember's are scheduled next Tuesday to conduct a full hearing about this garden and decide the fate of this property.

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