Urge City Leaders to Do More to Protect Asian New Yorkers
New York::___ The Asian American Federation (AAF) led a rally to Rise Up Against Asian Hate at Foley Square in downtown Manhattan on February 27, 2021 to speak out against the anti-Asian violence that has caused harm to vulnerable Asian New Yorkers throughout the city. They were joined by over 30 co-sponsoring organizations, elected representatives, community allies and leaders, as well as victims of hate, who condemned the violence against Asians Americans. A diverse crowd of hundreds of people showed up on a rainy morning. They chanted, “This is what community looks like, ” and fell silent as Noel Quintana, the Filipino worker who got slashed on the subway told his story.
An array of elected leaders were present, including Attorney General Letitia James, Senator Chuck Schumer, Congresswoman Grace Meng, State Senators John Lui, Brad Hoylman, Brian Kavanaugh and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. NY City council members Peter Koo, Carlina Rivera, and Mark Levine.
In the past few weeks alone, there has been a spate of assaults on Asian elders in New York City and across the county. These are just the latest in a string of violent attacks numbering close to 500 that have targeted Asian New Yorkers in the past year. Since early 2020, the Asian American community across the country and New York has been the target of race-based discrimination and harassment – behavior stoked by anti-Asian rhetoric and anti-immigrant policies driven by the former president and other national leaders.
As a leadership organization representing the collective voice of 70 Asian nonprofits serving 1.3 million Asian New Yorkers, AAF has sounded the alarm about the rising number of bias incidents since January 2020 and advocated for a large-scale, coordinated response from New York City leaders to address – as well as prevent – the harm being inflicted on Asian Americans.
Based on reports collected by AAF, Stop AAPI Hate, NYPD, and the NYC Commission on Human Rights, Asian New Yorkers suffered nearly 500 bias incidents or hate crimes in 2020, ranging from verbal to physical assaults, to being coughed at or spat upon, to shunning, among other forms of discrimination. However, these are a fraction of the actual number of incidents that have occurred, as the majority of incidents go unreported. For example, over 90% of the reports collected by AAF were not reported to either the NYPD or NYC Commission on Human Rights.
The anti-Asian xenophobia began to affect Asian-owned small businesses as early as January 2020, when huge swaths of customers started to avoid Asian immigrant businesses, leaving neighborhoods like Manhattan’s Chinatown, Sunset Park, and downtown Flushing eerily empty. Business declines were so drastic that elected officials began campaigns to encourage New Yorkers to patronize Asian-owned businesses in January and February before the mandatory lockdowns. Meanwhile, the Asian American community has had to struggle through other pandemic-related challenges, such as the loss of loved ones and the largest increase in unemployment across all major racial groups.
AAF and community groups called on New York’s leadership to meaningfully create more safety for Asian immigrants, many of whom are vulnerable and lack the resources needed to navigate this public health threat. With 25% living in poverty and nearly 50% having limited English proficiency, Asian New Yorkers have been victimized through physical, verbal, and structural violence during the pandemic.
AAF and their member groups and allies called on city and state leaders to invest in community-based solutions to ensure greater, more immediate safety for all Asian New Yorkers, as well as urged New Yorkers to stand up and look out for their fellow New Yorkers. Specifically, they asked leaders to:
Support the efforts of trusted Asian-led, Asian-serving organizations to centralize the reporting of incidents in order to connect victims to services they need;
Invest in community-based safety measures to allow Asian organizations to coordinate a safety ambassador program to ensure more immediate safety in the streets;
Provide recovery services in Asian languages to help victims heal from the trauma; and
Increase access to mental health services for all communities to reduce harm.
Our press kit has a statement against anti-Asian violence signed by 40 community groups, photos from the rally, and safety resources that have been developed in-house in 5 Asian languages.
Jo-Ann Yoo, the executive director of the Asian American Federation, said, “Since COVID-19 hit our shores, we have been shouting from the rooftops that our community is under attack. But all we received for our advocacy were half-hearted gestures. Now, the attacks are fast and furious; this week, another Asian man trying to go about his life was attacked. All last year, Asian Americans have been on the frontlines—serving our city as doctors and nurses, as teachers and small business owners, grocery workers, and food delivery people. It is heartbreaking that we are being forced to live in fear of our lives. It’s time for our leaders and all New Yorkers to come together and stand against this virus of hate. Our communities deserve to live in safety. They also deserve recovery programs, language services, mental health services, and solutions that center the community. We believe in the safety of all our communities and look forward to working with our leaders, our community, and victims to ensure that the solutions we implement support and uplift all New Yorkers.”
Noel Quintana, who was violently attacked on February 3, 2021, said, “When I was attacked on the subway, there were so many New Yorkers around me, but nobody came to my help, nobody made a video. I was scared I wasn’t going to make it. I think it would be helpful if ordinary people are trained in how to respond in an emergency – how to help someone in trouble like me, how to take a video and record what’s happening, how to call 911. We are all New Yorkers, and we should be looking out for each other.”
Father Julian Jagudilla, the executive director of the Migrant Center, said, “Korean and Filipino members of my congregation have experienced anti-Asian violence for the past year. Noel Quintana is the treasurer of my organization, and his attack has made Asian members of our community scared and anxious. Reassuring them and finding resources for them so they can live safely in our city is the need of the hour. We have to fight racism and protect our Asian communities through vigilance and community action.”
Rej Joo, Program Manager, and Donnay Edmund, Upstander Coordinator, at the Center for Anti-Violence Education said, “We at the Center for Anti-Violence Education recognize the deep need for connectedness, safety, and care for Asian and other targeted communities. Since the start of the pandemic last year, it has been critical for us to provide support through safety tools and build partnership with Asian American initiatives to ensure the Asian community’s safety. With the heightened racism and anti-Asian xenophobic rhetoric, it is more important than ever to mobilize communities towards solidarity, support, and mutual aid, and away from the false divide and conquer tactics that were spewed in the last administration.”
“More than a year ago, we called out the growing signs of vile anti-Asian bigotry already on the rise,” said Murad Awawdeh, interim Co-Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Since then, the toxic combination of xenophobia-stoking national leaders and misinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic has festered. We can’t afford inaction anymore. This week’s brutal stabbing of an innocent Asian New Yorker is only the latest example of the cost of doing nothing. By supporting the organizations already working in these communities, providing language-appropriate mental health services, and providing resources for community-led healing, our city leaders can start to undo the damage of the last year. The New York Immigration Coalition is proud to stand with the Asian American Federation in making this demand.”
“Latinos and Asians have helped build this nation even as they were mistreated, demonized, and denied the American dream for themselves. We, as a community, stand in opposition to the hate and abuse we see of the Asian community, not only because it is wrong, but because we know firsthand that this type of racism is not limited to one ethnic group; it is the racism that has forced many in our community to live in the shadows,” said Frankie Miranda, President and CEO of Hispanic Federation. “Hispanic Federation stands committed to defend our communities and to ensure our interconnectedness is the instrument that combats baseless intolerance and violence across the country and especially here at home.”
“COVID-19 has highlighted the racial disparities in this country and has made clear that the first disease in America was racism. We know this from the 400 years of racial inequities and oppression African Americans have faced on these shores, but the pandemic has now brought to the surface how much the Asian community has been suffering as well. We must stand with our Asian brothers and sisters to condemn this hatred that is all too familiar to our communities of color. We need to make sure people like us are supported through concrete actions that will allow for victims to heal, prevent further violence from occurring, and educate the rest of our communities on the problems we face in order to move forward,” said Arva Rice, President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Urban League.
“I applaud AAF for getting a diverse coalition together to condemn and call out the anti-Asian attacks that have instilled such terror in the Asian American community and across our City,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “I am pleased to see all our different communities together – because this anti-Asian hate cannot be an Asian issue. This must be an American issue! Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Asian American community has been fighting two viruses: the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-Asian hate. The attacks against Asian Americans are outrageous and disgusting, and it must end. Asian Americans have been beaten, spat at, shoved, slashed, and harassed – resulting in even death. They have even had acid thrown at them. These are our parents and grandparents; this is absolutely despicable and heartbreaking. We cannot sit on the sidelines and hope this problem will disappear. We must stand united together and urge our communities to support one another. If you see acts of anti-Asian sentiment or hate, speak out against it and make sure to report it. Our diversity is our strength and we must fight for an equitable future for all.”
“The surge in attacks against Asian American communities is alarming, ignorant, and dangerous. We cannot and will not tolerate racism and discrimination. That’s why I’m proud to stand with The Asian American Federation to Rise Up Against Asian Hate. Last year, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, there were warnings of a potential surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Tragically, those warnings came to fruition and the Asian American community, across New York and the country, have been the target of race-based discrimination and harassment. These acts of anti-Asian violence have been compounded by other challenges caused by the coronavirus like the loss of loved ones and unemployment. With state and local leaders, it is important we work to identify and implement the community based solutions needed to combat violence against Asian Americans,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.
“As we continue to face an unprecedented and challenging time in our world, this pandemic does not give anyone an excuse to be racist, xenophobic, or biased,” said New York State Attorney General Letitia James. “The recent rise in hate crimes and attacks against the Asian-American community is despicable and an affront to our values. No one should live in fear for their life because of who they are, what they look like, or where they come from. My office remains committed to fighting against bigotry and hate of any kind, and I continue to encourage everyone to remain vigilant and to report any discriminatory acts to my office.”
Council Member Margaret Chin said, “The recent assaults on Asian-Americans are extremely disturbing, and I urge that safety measures are immediately put in place to protect our community. The City must respond to this surge in hate crimes by investing in community-based services and providing language translation for victims healing from trauma. We need to rally support and solidarity within our communities of color to send a message of urgency to City Hall.”
Council Member Peter Koo stated, “Our community has been under attack since before the coronavirus ever reached our shores. The pandemic brought more discrimination, more racism, and more attacks that have continued unabated throughout the last year. We need more than just lip service. Our communities need language services, recovery services, culturally competent mental health services so that we don’t have to live in fear. Until then, we must come together as New Yorkers to stand up for one another, protect each other, and report incidents when they happen. It’s time to stop the hate!”
“Hatred, bigotry, and discrimination against our Asian-American neighbors are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “Racism and xenophobia will not stand in New York City or anywhere – and these targeted attacks against Asian New Yorkers must end immediately. We have to do everything we can to make all New Yorkers feel safe. I stand in solidarity with our Asian American community against hate. We will not be divided.”
“Since the onset of the pandemic, Asian Americans have been COVID scapegoats, blamed for a virus that originated and spread by pure chance. Ignorance and racism have led to blatant discrimination, business boycotts, and attacks targeting Asians. We need more resources to prevent and investigate these anti-Asian American crimes when they occur. Everyone deserves to feel safe and welcome in our city,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.