- Title: U.S. Asians, harassed for coronavirus, push back on streets, social media
- Date: 28th May 2020
- Summary: SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (RECENT - MAY 22, 2020) (REUTERS VIA ZOOM) (SOUNDBITE) (English) 'STOP RACISM AGAINST ASIAN AMERICANS - 1 MILLION STRONG' FACEBOOK GROUP FOUNDER, ADAM MANHBAOBOUA, SAYING: "Hearing all these kinds of stories really broke my heart and at the same time I was angry, too. And I felt like, you know what, I had to do something, I had to speak out, I had to do my part. That's why I started the group, just to bring all the community members together to raise awareness of what's going on. And also, just be this collective voice to say, 'You know what, we will not tolerate racism or hate against our community.' And, you know, we started this group in April, now we have like 20,000 members."
- Embargoed: 11th June 2020 20:40
- Keywords: Asian Americans Asian discrimination COVID-19 Chinatown Block Watch Karlin Chan Leanna Louie Trump United Peace Corps coronavirus
- Location: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON + SAN FRANCISCO + SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA + NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES / INTERNET
- City: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON + SAN FRANCISCO + SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA + NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES / INTERNET
- Country: USA
- Topics: Race Relations / Ethnic Issues,Society/Social Issues,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA004CFZFRK7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDIT CONTAINS PROFANITY
A spike in harassment of Asian Americans since the coronavirus pandemic began has led community activists in the United States to fight back - forming street patrols, rallying on social media, and supporting each other online. Asians of varying national backgrounds have suffered a surge of attacks this year, which activists linked to the pandemic's emergence in China.
The FBI has warned of a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to media reports citing internal documents.
The New York City Commission on Human Rights this week launched a multilingual campaign to combat COVID-19-related discrimination after it received over 350 such complaints from Feb. 1 to May 15. Of these, 133, or 37%, targeted Asians. That compared with just 11 complaints of discrimination targeted at Asians during the same period in 2019.
In mid-May, the Seattle Police Department released surveillance footage of an attack on an Asian couple. According to police, the suspect told the couple "it's all your fault," then shoved, slapped and spat at one of the victims.
In San Francisco's and New York's Chinatowns, volunteer patrols are forming to protect residents and confront harassers.
"We observe, and then we record, and report," said Leanna Louie, a San Francisco businesswoman and former U.S. Army intelligence officer, who started patrol group United Peace Corp after a local police report declared Chinatown crime-free in the first three months of 2020.
In eight weeks, her patrol group has filed 24 reports, including medical response incidents, auto burglaries, theft and shoplifting, leading to three arrests.
"It is upsetting to hear about the things that go on in the stores, the people shoplifting, beating people up, mugging, road rage, all these things that happen that are targeted towards Asians," she said. "It really needs to be stopped and that's why we're here. We're trying to encourage people to stand up and speak up against it, try to help people to understand that we need to be united in order to make this problem go away."
The San Francisco Police Department has expanded its presence on foot and in cars around the city to act as a deterrent against such crimes, it said in a statement.
The Guardian Angels, with patrols in over 130 cities worldwide, are recruiting in U.S. Asian communities for the first time in 41 years. Members include seniors and women, who are often targets of abuse.
"People are protesting Asian people so I wanted to stand up and try to do something," said laid-off dental assistant Sara Chin, 46, the first Asian female Guardian Angel. She also patrols with New York's Chinatown Block Watch, formed by longtime Chinatown resident Karlin Chan.
"We're not vigilantes, we're out there just to keep an eye on the street," he said. "Anybody who's on the street that happens to visit this area, if they're thinking about harassing people or something, they know that there are people out there and we will witness it, we will record it and we will help report it."
Chan has lived in Chinatown for over 60 years.
"We share a common love for the neighborhood of Chinatown and the surrounding areas and we're banding together," he said. "We're uniting against hate and racism."
Chinatown Block Watch volunteer Dallas Short called the coronavirus-related attacks against the Asian community "stupid."
"I think it goes from leadership down, so people are just drinking the Kool-Aid too much and they've got to realize we're all in this together, everyone is dying, it doesn't care what race you are, doesn't care about your age, doesn't care about your gender, your sexual preference, anything," he said. "So we just gotta take care of each other, because if we don't, who else will?"
And tech-savvy individuals are leading today's social media response.
Adam Manhbaoboua created the Facebook group "Stop Racism Against Asian Americans - 1 Million Strong" in April after he said his daughter was bullied at school by a classmate who told her she had the coronavirus because she was Asian and after hearing about multiple accounts of anti-Asian racism.
"This whole health crisis is starting to become this human rights crisis," he said. "Hearing all these kinds of stories really broke my heart and at the same time I was angry, too. And I felt like I had to do something, I had to speak out, I had to do my part. That's why I started the group, just to bring all the community members together to raise awareness of what's going on. And also, just be this collective voice to say, 'you know what, we will not tolerate racism or hate against our community.' And we started this group in April, now we have like 20,000 members."
Some said they feared harassment could worsen in a U.S. election year, with politicians blaming China for a trade dispute, spying allegations, and the coronavirus.
"My hope is that it doesn't get worse for people who look like us throughout the next year," journalist Lisa Ling said at a virtual rally by non-profit Act To Change on May 18. "But just given how volatile rhetoric has been, particularly by this administration, it's something that I'm tremendously concerned about."
Nonprofit organization #HATEISAVIRUS was created in late March and raised $15,000 at the end of its virtual rally last week for small businesses hurt by the pandemic.
Since March 19, over 1,700 cases of harassment related to the coronavirus pandemic have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a website that professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University Russell Jeung created with two advocacy groups.
"The incidents reflect a disturbing trend, that Americans are blaming Asian Americans for a biological virus," Jeung said in a May 13 statement. "Instead, we need to hold our American government accountable to controlling the disease and to safeguarding our public health. Both the virus and racism are dangerous threats to the Asian American community."
Nine out of 10 victims were targeted because of their race, with 37% of incidents taking place in public areas, the organization said. Verbal harassment and shunning occurred in over 90% of the cases. Victims were physically assaulted, or coughed or spat on, in some 15% of cases.
(Production: Roselle Chen, Andrew Hofstetter and Nathan Frandino)
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