THE assault on 65-year-old Vilma Kari has caused widespread alarm in New York City as multiple rallies were held over the weekend to denounce the continuing spike of attacks on people of Asian descent.
Brandon Elliot, the 38-year-old homeless man accused of brutally attacking Kari in broad daylight, was formally indicted on Monday, April 5 as protesters gathered outside the Manhattan Criminal Court to demand an end to anti-Asian hate crimes.
Consul General Elmer Cato issued a statement which was read by Phil Wong, President of the Chinese-American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York at the rally.
“I can see in Vilma the face of my own mother and other elderly Asian women living in New York, who, due to the recent spate of violence against Asians, would not even want to leave the safety of their homes anymore for fear that they, too, would be violently assaulted,” the statement said.
Cato also mentioned the case of 61-year-old Noel Quintana, who got his face slashed after he was attacked with a box cutter while riding the subway on his way to work.
“These cases hit close to home, since we, Asians, revere our elders. It is part of our DNA to look after our elderly. This is why Elliot’s violent attack on Vilma had been particularly distressing to all of us. But contrary to what Elliot said, Vilma and the rest of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Community belong here,” continued the statement.
Elliot, who was out on lifetime parole for killing his own mother when he was 19 years old, is due back in court on April 21.
According to the authorities, Elliot kicked and stomped on Kari while making anti-Asian statements. The Manhattan district attorney’s office charged him with three counts of assault as a hate crime.
Elliot was shown “brutally shoving, kicking and stomping the victim after telling her she didn’t belong here,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said at a news conference last week. “This brave woman belongs here. Asian American New Yorkers belong here. Everyone belongs here.”
“Attacks against Asian American New Yorkers are attacks against all New Yorkers. Our office stands against hate in all its forms,” Vance added.
Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Paul McDonnell remanded Elliot to jail without bail last week.
“Like many New Yorkers, I’m grateful that this person is no longer on our streets,” New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang said. “New York City is everyone’s city. The city is for everyone, and there’s no one who should be walking the streets in fear, particularly based upon the way that they look of the color of their skin.”
Tess dela Cruz, 60, has lived in New York for almost four decades. She told Asian Journal that she has “never been scared all my life” even in those years she worked evening shifts at Mount Sinai and would go home at midnight.
“I would go home 12 midnight, I take the subway, I was never harassed or attacked. Now I look around, I look at the person in front of me beside me, behind me, I don’t take chance,” she said.
In his statement, Consul General Cato urged everyone “not to shut their doors” to victims of hate crimes and encouraged people to call 911 or the Crime Stoppers hotline of the New York City Police Department to report incidents of hate crimes. Filipino victims of hate crimes are also encouraged to get in touch with the Philippine Consulate General.
The doormen of the luxury apartment building who closed the door as Kari was kicked to the ground and repeatedly stomped on have been fired, according to a New York Times report on Tuesday, April 6.
The building’s management told residents in an email that two doormen who were inside the building at the time had not followed “emergency and safety protocols.”
“For this reason, their employment has been terminated, effective immediately,” said the email from Rick Mason, the executive director of management at the Brodsky Organization, which owns the luxury apartment building.
The video clips prompted an outpouring of criticism from residents who were mostly dismayed that the bystanders did nothing to help Kari.
“It was horrifying seeing this helpless lady being viciously attacked by a man double her size but what bothered me more was that those who could have helped her turned a blind eye and did nothing! That to me was more horrifying,” Vivian Talambiras Cruz, 71, told the Asian Journal.
Kari, who suffered serious injuries including a fractured pelvis and forehead contusions, was discharged from the hospital the following day and is “safe and in good spirits,” her daughter Elizabeth said through the GoFundMe platform.
“I want to start off by saying my mom is humbled by the outpouring of messages and support from not only our friends and family, but from the kind souls all over the world,” Elizabeth wrote.
The online fundraiser has generated almost $250,000 from more than 6,000 donors as of Tuesday, April 6. The page, which had an initial goal of $20,000, has been shared almost 10,000 times.
“There are no words to describe how appreciative we are of your kindness and time. We are blessed and humbled by your uplifting messages and reminded that despite how unique and different we may be from one another, we can still come together just as strong, compassionate, and resilient,” Elizabeth wrote in an update posted on April 4.