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Shop owner pepper sprayed by man who yelled “Covid-19”

By Louis Chan & Raymond Chong, AsAmNews Staff Writers

(Updated: This story has been updated with additional information from a police report obtained by AsAmNews)

A tea shop owner in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC is recovering from burns after a stranger entered his shop this morning, screamed “Chinese tea” and “Covid-19” and then pepper sprayed him.

“I believe it was racially motivated,” victim Zhang Yunhan told Raymond Chong of AsAmNews. “I cannot imagine another angle of looking at it.”

AsAmNews has confirmed with the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department that the incident is being classified as “anti-Asian.”

It happened at around 9:30 this morning. You can hear Zhang ask the man several times to “go away right now,” but the suspect continues to approach.

At one point, Zhang holds up his pepper spray , according to the police report, in an attempt to scare the suspect away.

Instead, the suspect pulled out his own pepper spray and fired it in the direction of Zhang, before escaping.

Zhang used his arm as a shield and tries to duck behind the counter. He said the burning lasted several hours.

Zhang said he opened his shop, Valley Brook Tea, just in February. He serves traditional Chinese tea, not boba. The pandemic forced him to close one month later until early May. He says since then he’s experienced a lot of verbal and physical harassment on a weekly basis. The verbal harassment, he says, almost always has to do with the “Chinese virus.”

“I do not like posting about these incidences of racism/harassment because I do not want my store to be defined by it,” he told Chong of AsAmNews. “I don’t want our business to be defined as the Chinese store that gets bullied.”

He said police arrived within minutes. An investigator took the video and someone from the Asian Liaison office also arrived.

Zhang moved from China to the US in 2009 to study.

“Most people in the neighborhood are nice, but we started to see more action after Covid,” Zhang said. “We are used to it. I see it like car accidents. Sometimes bad things happen.”

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