The owners of Babylon restaurant in Lowell, Massachusetts, were understandably shaken last Wednesday when a man hurled a 20-pound rock through the window of the downtown Iraqi eatery, fearing he may have acted out of hate.
Now, a group of war veterans are sending a message that they won't tolerate hate against the eatery by pledging to fill every seat in the restaurant, the Lowell Sun reports.
"This solidarity gives us the courage to stand," Babylon owner Leyla Al-Zubaydi told the Sun. "There is no more fear in my heart because there are such nice people behind us."
Al-Zubaydi said her family was terrified that the incident was motivated by hate. According to the International Institute of New England, Al-Zubaydi and her father, Ahmed Al-Zubaidi are political refugees who fled to the United States in January, 2011.
A journalist, Al-Zubaidi had become a target of the government because his work criticized Saddam Hussein, the Boston Globe reported in a profile last year.
A victim of hate crimes in his home country, Al-Zubaydi told the Sun that when his restaurant was threatened last week, it brought his wife to tears and made her consider the possibility of closing the restaurant for good.
Luckily, as soon as he heard about the incident, Vietnam veteran Patrick Scanlon, coordinator of the Greater Boston chapter of the Veterans for Peace, organized the rally for the following Tuesday and was delighted to be joined by a number of veterans in the area who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With Lowell Mayor Patrick Murphy by their side, the vets took turns holding signs for the sit-in and eating at the restaurant. By 8 p.m. Tuesday evening, more than 100 people had come in to eat at the restauraunt, Al-Zubaydi told the Sun.
Lowell police have since identified the man who threw the stone and say he has confessed to the crime, but claimed not to have known the restaurant was owned by Iraqis. He is scheduled to be summoned from his home in New Hampshire later this month to appear in court on misdemeanor charges.