A large audience-diverse group showed up on rainy Saturday morning at the Rise Up Against Asian Hate at Foley Square. | Photo by AAF
NEW YORK – The Asian American Federation (AAF) led a rally to Rise Up Against Asian Hate at Foley Square in downtown Manhattan on Feb. 27 to speak out against the anti-Asian violence that caused harm to vulnerable Asian New Yorkers throughout the city. Over 30 co-sponsoring organizations, elected representatives, community allies, leaders, and victims of hate condemning the violence against Asian Americans joined. A diverse crowd of hundreds of people showed up on a rainy Saturday morning and chanted, “This is what community looks like.” When Filipino worker Noel Quintana spoke, the crowd fell into silence as he told his story.
Quintana was violently attacked on Feb. 3. “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,” he said. “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 to 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.”
Several elected leaders were present at the rally, including Attorney General Letitia James, Sen. 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.
As a leading 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 inflicted on Asian Americans.
Jo-Ann Woo, the executive director of the Asian American Federation, recalled that when COVID-19 affected the US, they have to shout from the rooftops that their 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,” she said. “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.”
Added Woo: ” 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.”
The anti-Asian xenophobia began to affect Asian-owned small businesses as early as January 2020, when vast 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 struggled through other pandemic-related challenges, such as losing loved ones and the largest increase in unemployment across all major racial groups.
According to 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. These ranged from verbal to physical assaults, being coughed at or spat upon, and shunning, among other forms of discrimination. However, these are a fraction of the number of incidents that have occurred, as most adventures go unreported. For example, over 90 percent of the reports collected by AAF were unreported to either the NYPD or NYC Commission on Human Rights.
“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!”
Meng said that the attacks against Asian Americans are outrageous and disgusting and that they 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.”
In support of the cause of AAF’s Rise Up Against Asian Hate, Sen. Chuck Schumer also spoke and said that the surge in attacks against Asian American communities is alarming, ignorant, and dangerous.” “They 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,” he said. “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.”
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 percent living in poverty and nearly 50 percent having limited English proficiency, Asian New Yorkers were physical, verbal, and structural violence victims during the pandemic.
AAF and their member groups and allies called on city and state leaders to invest in community-based solutions to ensure more significant, more immediate safety for all Asian New Yorkers. They 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.
Last week, the AAF issued a statement against anti-Asian violence signed by 40 community groups condemning the rising tide of hate crimes against Asian American communities, many of whom are working as frontline workers or managing multiple jobs. They called upon New Yorkers to eradicate hate and to look out for each other. Here are some ways to help:
- Support victims by advocating for recovery services offered in Asian languages to help them heal from the trauma.
- Help promote and practice ways to diffuse tense situations.
- Ask our leaders to demonstrate their dedication to eradicating hate and ensuring absolute safety by creating a support system that allows those targeted to seek help in different places and ways.
- Urge leaders to invest in meaningful strategies to bring marginalized communities together to build and heal during and after COVID-19. (With Jay Domingo)