Video shows line around the block in Chinatown for pepper spray after latest anti-Asian attack in New York City

Hate violence against Asian-Americans surged in 2021

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Thursday 17 March 2022 15:41
Video shows line around block in Chinatown for pepper spray after anti-Asian attack in NYC

Hundreds of people, many of them Asian women, formed a line around the block in New York City’s Chinatown over the weekend to acquire pepper spray, after the latest in a string of vicious Covid-era attacks on Asian women, many of them elderly.

On Sunday, a New York based non-profit called Soar Over Hate distributed roughly 1,000 pepper spray kits to women.

“I hope this illustrates to the daily fears that many are experiencing,” wrote Soar Over Hate founder Michelle Tran on Twitter. “We gave out ~1000 [pepper] sprays to women who looked just like me looking to feel a bit safer.”

The line around the block, many of them elderly Asian women, showed that “people are living in fear,” added Evelyn Yang, an author and wife of politician Andrew Yang.

Earlier that week, a man in nearby Yonkers, New York, was arrested and charged with an attempted hate murder after punching an elderly Asian woman 125 times and calling her a racial slur.

“This is one of the most appalling attacks I have ever seen; to beat a helpless woman is despicable and targeting her because of her race makes it more so,” Yonkers police commissioner John Mueller said.

A suspect with a lengthy history of violent crime, Tammel Esco, was arrested at the scene of the attack without incident.

The woman, whose attempt to flee was captured on surveillance video that’s been widely shared online, was taken to the hospital with lacerations and brain bleeding, but is now in stable condition.

Hate crime against Asians and Pacific Islanders went up by 339 per cent across the US last year, with many pointing to the Covid pandemic for fuelling anti-Asian racism.

While attacks against Asian people have prompted widespread condemnation and increased attention to anti-Asian racism in the US, preventing such tragedies has proved a more difficult and contentious subject.

Calls for more policing have divided community members, with some arguing more officers in Asian neighbourhoods will increase safety, while others say it could increase police violence and draw resources from more needed structural reforms.

“What we’re trying to do is we’re calling for a redistribution of wealth and resources into things like health care, and housing, social services, because we know that’s at the root of the violence that we see in our communities, is due to inequality,” Jason Wu, of advocacy group GAPIMNY-Empowering Queer & Trans Asian Pacific Islanders, said last year, amid debate about a Covid hate crimes bill that would increase law enforcement resources. “The things that will keep us safe require us to think more long term and systemically about what the root causes of violence are.”

The Biden administration signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act last May.

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