A Hoboken man has been arrested and charged after allegedly threatening the life of the owner of a local black-owned bookshop in Bayonne, The Little Boho Bookshop at 164A Broadway.
Qiuewn Zheng, 59, allegedly sent shop owner Sandra Dear racially charged emails and made a racially charged phone call threatening her life.
On Nov. 20, shortly after opening the shop a team member reviewing the days’ incoming emails and online orders alerted Dear to a series of troubling emails directed at her, according to a statement by Dear on social media. These emails were quickly follow by a racially charged phone call to the shop where verbal threats were made against Dear’s life.
Shaken, Dear said she contacted the authorities who responded swiftly.
At 11:12 a.m., officers from the Bayonne Police Department (BPD) responded to The Little Boho Bookshop following a report of the cyber-harassment. Officers met with Dear who reported the racially charged emails to her business email account and the threatening phone call.
Dear said that police assured her that the matter would be given the utmost attention and that all steps would be taken to ensure that no harm came to her.
Caught in time
Deeming this an act of bias intimidation, the BPD launched an investigation, increased patrols in the area, and implemented a fixed post through the Bayonne Police Community Oriented Policing Unit.
On Nov. 21, the individual who allegedly issued the threats was apprehended by police as he approached the bookshop.
At 10:50 a.m., while several officers and a detective were posted at the bookshop, they were approached by an unknown male later identified as Zheng. Zheng began speaking unintelligible phrases and uttering the same words as those in the emails sent to the bookshop the day prior.
An investigation ensued and led to Zheng being identified as the alleged actor behind the emails and phone call directed at Dear and The Little Boho Bookshop on Nov. 20.
Zheng was taken into custody and charged with Bias Intimidation, Cyber-Harassment, and Terroristic Threats.
A separate incident of harassment possibly involving Zheng is underway, regarding numerous harassing phone calls made to the Bayonne Police Telecommunication Center at all hours of the day since Oct. 18.
“The Bayonne Police Department will not tolerate divisive acts such as this,” Chief of Police Robert Geisler said. “Incidents of Bias Intimidation will be investigated to their logical conclusions, and those responsible will be held accountable. I would like to commend the officers assigned to the area of The Little Boho Bookshop on Saturday for taking swift action and taking this offender into custody before this incident could escalate further.”
“My heartfelt gratitude to the Bayonne Police Department,” Dear said. “To all of the amazing police officers with whom I’ve spoken, especially those of you who stood watch over my team and I over the past few “surreal” days, THANK YOU!”
A pattern of hate
This was not the first time something like this has happened. Dear said the first note arrived in her mailbox on Aug. 1, 2017, the day after the shop’s grand opening which read “get out, we do not want your kind here.”
Another time when Dear wore a t-shirt as a head wrap to work because she didn’t have time to do her hair, the phone rang at the shop and an individual asked if she sold the Quran.
“I need 50 copies, and I’d like to burn them and you in your store,” the individual said before the phone went dead. Undeterred, Dear said she has worn t-shirt head wraps to the store every day since.
Dear said that over the past three years, notes, emails, and phone calls carrying similar tones and racial bias have been directed at the store but none like the ones received on Friday.
“No I am not okay, not right now, but I will be!,” Dear said. “Last night a tear finally escaped, but this incident will not change me.”
Following her statement on Nov. 22, Dear and The Little Boho Bookshop received an outpouring of support on social media. Some residents left bouquets of flowers in front of the book shop’s door.
The store was closed on Nov. 23 and reopened on Nov. 24; Dear said she needed some time following the incident.
“Overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, and concern I’ve received, I’m humbled by your kindness and buoyed by your concern and support!,” Dear said.
Standing in solidarity
Local activist group Black in Bayonne, cofounded by Camille High, Clarice High, Shaniqua Borders, and Rashad Calloway, released a joint statement in support of Dear following the incident:
“The reality of being black anywhere in the world is that this not something we haven’t seen. Before cyber bullying our ancestors were harassed while walking into schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. They were harassed while holding sit-ins at WoolWorths counters in North Carolina. They faced intimidation and terroristic threats when they organized voter registrations and economic boycotts in Mississippi. They watched their businesses and homes burned to the ground in Tulsa, Oklahoma. So sadly, we are not new to this. The idea that Black excellence, good manners, or a new smile shields you from the hate that sits in the bones of some individuals is just unrealistic. If anything, it ignites a fire that fuels them to keep perpetuating hate and sowing fear in the hearts of those who only look to move with love.”
Black in Bayonne continued: “So while Sandra was not trying to desegregate a school in Arkansas, or sitting at a lunch counter in North Carolina, or organizing a voter registration drive in Mississippi, she was simply a black women who decided to exist. She decided to own a store, and sell hope! With every book, and every smile she was what some hate, BLACK GIRL MAGIC.”
Black in Bayonne stands in solidarity with Dear and asks everyone to support The Little Boho Bookshop with kind words, prayers, and purchases. However, the support cannot be temporary or just in response to tragedy, but must become a lifestyle.
Black in Bayonne has compiled a list of black-owned businesses in addition to The Little Boho Bookshop that residents can support. View the list on the group’s Instagram page at @blackinbayonne.
“Being Black in Bayonne means that when one person hurts, we all hurt,” according to Black in Bayonne. “Sandra you are not alone. We see you, we hear you, we love you and this act will not define you!”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.