The number of Latino groups who have received hate mail and envelopes laced with white powdery substances grew to 30 Tuesday, which included an incident at the Center for Latin American Studies on the UC Berkeley campus.
Like most of the letters received by other Latino organizations Monday, there was a white powdery substance found inside the envelope at the UC site.
The two staff members who handled the mail were told to go home and take showers, and if they experienced flu-like symptoms, to check themselves into the hospital.
The hate mail has targeted Latino social service agencies as well as attorneys in the greater Bay Area — going as far south as San Jose.
Authorities said Tuesday there are several similarities with each piece of mail — which includes a form letter containing an “anti-Latino diatribe,” white powder and Oakland postmarks.
The FBI said they may have localized some of the mail to Pleasanton, but very little else is being released about the ongoing investigation.
Four of the 30 incidents have occurred in Berkeley.
La Pena Cultural Center was one of the first sites reporting the suspicious mail at about 9:30 a.m. Monday.
According to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Arriola, president of La Raza Lawyers Association of California, the mail has been addressed to the leaders and executive personnel of the agencies and firms.
San Francisco police also say three of the letters were received Monday in the city by a downtown attorney, a Mission District community group and a newspaper.
The white powdery substance collected at all locations has so far tested negative for anthrax. FBI and police officials are investigating this rash as hate crimes meant to induce panic and fear rather than physical harm.
“We are investigating the matter as a hate crime,” said Andrew Black of the FBI.
“If it weren't for affirmative action, you would probably all still be bean pickers and prostitutes,” the letters said.
The letters also warn recipients to be wary of the powdery substance contained in the letter.
In addition, all of the letters have not contained return addresses.
Paul Chin, executive director of La Pena who opened one of the first letters on Monday morning said if he had one piece of advice in all this it is not to answer mail that does not come with a return address.
“Everyone here is taking it pretty easy. But I think in the back of people’s minds are other situations that ended badly,” Chin said, referring to several New York State letter carriers who died late last year from exposure to Anthrax.
“We’re in this business of bringing people together, so to think that there are people out there that twisted and with nothing else better to do with their time that they are doing this is disturbing,” Chin said. “But hopefully this won’t translate into anything violent.”
Ultimately Chin said he thinks the entire anthrax element is a hoax and that the entire episode is just a vehicle being used by some sick person who has an axe to grind against Latinos.