Poster war in `Little Saigon'

TRUONG VAN TRAN only wanted to display a poster of Ho Chi Minh in his southern California video store to make a point, to "open dialogue" about his country nearly 25 years after the end of the Vietnam War.

Despite being vindicated in court, though, he must wonder if the point was worth making.

On Wednesday, an Orange County judge ruled that Mr Tran's poster was protected by his First Amendment right to free expression. That was the good news.

The bad news was that the verdict triggered a mini-riot, landing Mr Tran in hospital after he was punched in the face.

Not only that, he faces an eviction order from his store in Westminster, southern California's very own Little Saigon, and every prospect of a mass boycott by anti-Communist Vietnamese Americans who feel about Ho Chi Minh much the same way Cambodian refugees might feel about Pol Pot.

When Mr Tran first put up the poster last month, hundreds of protesters picketed his store and at one stage he was punched in the head.

A court injunction temporarily ordered him to remove the poster in the interests of keeping the peace, but that order lapsed with Wednesday's ruling.

As he returned to his store to put the poster back up, an angry crowd confronted Mr Tran and knocked him to the ground. "Let him die! Let the Communist die!" the protesters chanted as paramedics arrived to take him to hospital.

The blow to his face did not look serious, a police witness said, but Mr Tran has undergone two heart bypass operations and was said to be suffering from chest pains.

Just about everybody seemed angry with him: the police caught in the middle, for failing to contact them for protection; his landlord, for endangering his property; and even the judge, who ruled in his favour with the most reluctant of concluding statements.

"Mr Tran's display is undisputedly offensive and engenders hatred," Judge Barbara Tam Nomoto Schumann said, even as she upheld his constitutional rights.

In court, Mr Tran said he was not a Communist and merely wanted to open debate. "Nothing is more precious than liberty," read a sign he carried to court.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk