Authorities investigating hate crimes against Boyle Heights art dealers

- On Oct. 11, Mihai Nicodim went to work to see three words on his front door. The first one was vulgar in the attack against "White Art."

"That made me angry," said the Romanian-born Nicodim, who moved to the United States 26 years ago with $25 in his pocket.

He's the owner of one of five art galleries in Boyle Heights that have been targeted by anti-gentrification groups. But to Nicodim, "galleries are not part of the problem of gentrification."

However, to some groups who want to preserve the community as is, they are. That's why a group called "Defend Boyle Heights" has conducted protests and waged an anti-gentrification campaign.

We went to their office. They wouldn't go on camera but said they had nothing to do with the vulgar graffiti on the art gallery.

Nicodim thinks activists were involved, but he won't even try to guess who might be responsible.

A co-director of Defend Boyle Heights, Leonardo Vilchis, told us on the phone "we didn't do it." They backed that up with a manifesto on their Facebook page condemning gentrification as the "highest form of hate crime."

While he won't point fingers, Nicodim says he was also the victim of a potato-gun attack. It was in August. He was opening an art show which was titled after the Romanian words for "bogeyman" when the bad guys, whoever they were, "showed up, covered their license plates and started shooting potato guns."

"They can be quite dangerous."

He says a couple of people got hurt. Police are investigating that and the three graffiti-related hate crimes.

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