Pioneer Square gallery owner describes moment man came in, attacked her

Nov 1, 2018, 4:25 PM | Updated: Nov 2, 2018, 5:40 am

Phen Huong has owned the Foster/White art gallery in Pioneer Square for 16 years. She told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that she loves getting the chance to meet the people who come in the door and brighten their days with art.

“Many people find solace, whether they can afford artwork or not, just in the looking, in viewing beautiful things, in finding a calm, quiet, and welcoming place in their life,” she said. “We’re happy to be part of that in the community.”

Last week, however, a visitor entered the gallery with motives that were far less pure. Huong said that many people walk into an art gallery with slowly, but this man “waltzed in” boldly and, in an agitated manner, demanded a glass of water.

“He was one of those people who comes through the door where the back of your neck gets this funny feeling and we felt not so comfortable with him, so we kept our eyes on him,” she said.

Huong gave him the water, but kept watch on him as he spent time in the gallery. She said that the man began creating a mess with the business cards and the books that give information on the featured art.

“He was wanting the attention, he enjoyed being watched,” she said.

Because he was disturbing the displays, Huong asked him to leave. He allegedly responded by slapping her open-handed across the face.

“That was really alarming … I got the impression that he was really angry, looking for a fight, and looking for someone who was vulnerable,” she said.

Huong moved a swivel chair in front of her as self-defense, while her colleague called the police. But the violence only got worse.

“By the front door was an umbrella stand, and he took the umbrella and swung at me with it,” Huong said. “He hit me in the backs of my forearms as I crossed them over my head to protect myself.”

While Huong was doubled over by the hit, the man allegedly took the opportunity to beat her across the back of the head with the umbrella. This sent her careening down to smack her head on a glass case.

The man escaped and has not been caught by police.

Huong was luckily not seriously injured, but she is bruised, sore, and angry. Violence and threatening behavior are an epidemic facing business owners and residents not just in Pioneer Square, but in the entire city, she said.

“I wouldn’t categorize it as a problem for Pioneer Square, I think it’s a problem all throughout Seattle,” she said, adding, “There is a complacency by all Seattleites to allow a ghettoization of any area.”

The fault for the state of a city where business owners are beaten over the head with sharp objects lies in the hands of the politicians, Huong believes.

“I believe that some of us have a quieter voice than others in the city,” she said, but “it is absolutely all of our responsibilities to hold our leadership to account, and they’re the ones who are to be working for us.”

Huong said she is very grateful for the amount of police patrols in the Pioneer Square neighborhood, which she said have ramped up at the community’s request. However, she feels it is time for Seattle leaders to take control of the city’s danger and create policies that will protect, rather than harm, the innocent citizens who are contributing to make the city a better place.

“We need them to pay attention to the greater good,” she said. “The majority of us, 98 percent of us, probably, are law-abiding citizens, whether we’re housed or not, whether we’re housed or homeless, we’re all of us trying to make life better for ourselves and those around us. And it’s very few who are making the whole pot bitter. It’s not okay.”

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Pioneer Square gallery owner describes moment man came in, attacked her