HUNDREDS of New Yorkers trooped to Foley Square in downtown Manhattan on Saturday, Feb. 27 for the ”Rise Up Against Anti-Asian Hate” rally led by the Asian American Federation (AAF) to protest a rising wave of brutal attacks on Asian Americans, including a large number of elderly people.
The venue was a couple of blocks away from the site of yet another attack two days earlier when a 36-year-old Asian American man was stabbed unprovoked.
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.
Among the speakers were elected officials led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Rep. Grace Meng, New York Attorney General Letitia James and Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with community allies and leaders across the city.
Noel Quintana, a 61-year-old Filipino American, spoke about the ordeal he had to go through on Feb. 3 when his face was slashed on the subway as he was on his way to work.
While the most frightening part of the entire ordeal was the slashing, what followed next was just as awful.
“Nobody helped. We’re all New Yorkers and no one helped me. There should be an awareness campaign on how to deal with this kind of problem, not only on the subway but also on the streets, so people know who to respond to victims such as myself,” Quintana told the Asian Journal before the start of the program.
Schumer called Quintana to join him by the podium as he echoed what Meng said about former President Donald Trump and his administration leading anti-Asian rhetoric last year with his usage of the phrases “kung flu” and “Chinese virus” at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
“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,” Schumer said. “Bigotry against any of us is bigotry against all of us.”
James told the crowd, “When I think of Noel, I think of the words of Dr. King. It is the good people who fail to stand up. It is the silence of good people who fail to stand up, who allow racism and hate to persist and so all of us are here today, all of us who believe in the goodness of one another. All of us who recognize that all of us bleed red.
”All of us who recognize that his scars will heal but the scars of hate, and the taint of hate, and the pain of hate that we have got to cure, so all of us must stand together,” she added.
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, according to the AAF. For example, over 90% of the reports collected by AAF were not reported to either the NYPD or NYC Commission on Human Rights.
James encouraged individuals at the rally to report hate crimes to her office because hate will not be tolerated in a country of immigrants.
“Come to my office so we can go after these individuals who hate us, so we can shut them down,” James said. “We need a patrol which is staffed by police officers. A full-time, dedicated bureau… that patrol the streets, patrol the subways and keep the Asian community safe from harm.”
De Blasio told the crowd: “Stop Asian hate! This is the message we have to get out, not just in New York City, but all over this country: Stop Asian hate, stop it now!”
Meng thanked the members of other communities in NYC who attended the rally for showing up and lending support.
“We need to make sure that we are not fighting racism with more racism, that we are fighting racism with solidarity, that we are not ever, ever pitting one group against another,” she said.
“Many of our elderly are scared to leave their homes not just because of the virus but because of bigotry. The United States has a long history of discriminating and excluding Asian Americans that stems from ignorant fear,” Meng said, adding that the Trump administration fostered bigotry.
“We’ve been taught our entire lives to just fit in, just be quiet, don’t speak up, be invisible. If you are invisible enough, you will be seen as American,” Meng said tearfully, her voice breaking. “But we are to say that we won’t be invisible no more, we will speak up. We are saying that we are American, too.”
Jo-Ann Yoo, the executive director of the Asian American Federation, said, “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.”