By Shirley Ng, AsAmNews Staff Writer
A crime wave has taken over New York and the most recent deaths of two Asian Americans have the community outraged yet again.
Asian Justice Rally, Asian American Federation, and Stand with Asian Americans held an anti-Asian hate rally at Foley Square in Lower Manhattan as part of a multi-city rally to stop the hate and violence. The rallies in Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia were held simultaneously and live-streamed.
150 people came out in below-freezing temperatures in New York to voice their outrage on the first anniversary of the death of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year old grandfather of Thai descent who was shoved onto a concrete sidewalk in San Francisco-killing him.
“We can feel helpless, but we are here together and this is our power. This is the strength of our community,” said William Lex Ham, a rally organizer to the crowd.
NYC Public Advocate, Jumanne Williams, called for more resources, “Where’s the money? Where’s the infrastructure,” he said at the rally. He called out elected officials to listen and to “have action between these press conferences.”
President Biden is expected to visit New York to meet with Mayor Eric Adams this week about the crime wave and gun violence in New York City.
Speaking directly to Asian Americans, NYC Comptroller Brad Lander told them, “This is your city. It belongs to you as much as it belongs to anyone else.” He called for unity and communities to work together and pledged solidarity and to provide resources designated to AAPI led non-profits. He did not clarify what kind of resources.
JoAnn Yoo, Asian American Federation President told the crowd she “dread getting out of bed” and that it was sometimes “difficult” due to the various types of messages from Asian American victims calling her office for assistance.
Anti-Asian hate crimes increased over 300% in 2021 versus the year before and gun violence and robberies occurred throughout the city.
“Each of those numbers is a person, each of those numbers is a family that cares deeply,” said Don Vu, co-founder of Stand with Asian Americans.
The newly elected NY District Attorney Alvin Bragg did not calm the fears of New Yorkers when he announced new policies in a January 3rd memo that included downgrading felonies and no longer prosecuting low-level crimes. Critics accused him of being soft on crime.
“His instruction that his prosecutors charge robberies as petit larceny, a misdemeanor unless offenders had created “a genuine risk of physical harm,” has been a subject of fierce debate, and has been criticized by a number of former prosecutors,” wrote the New York Times
CNN reported that, “He (Bragg) believes he will make the city safer and the criminal justice system more fair, yet the plan faces criticism from police union leaders.”
The policies caused so much discontent with the new NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Governor Kathy Hochul that she recently reminded Bragg during a sit-down meeting last Friday that she had the power to remove him from office. Bragg is now re-thinking his policies.
Last week, the Asian American and Black communities joined together to hold a vigil in Harlem to honor Yao Pan Ma, a man brutally attacked in April while collecting cans and who died in late December after being in a coma. Not soon after his death, police say a homeless man pushed Michelle Go in front of an on-coming subway train, killing her at the Times Square station. Both suspects arrested for the deaths of Ma and Go appear to be in need of mental health services.
Violence did not take a break after Ma’s vigil. After calling for unity and an end to violence at the vigil, police say a suspect in a domestic dispute shot and killed an NYPD officer in Harlem later that eveningHis partner died a few days later in the hospital also from gunshot wounds.
The tense political climate between the US and China has given reasons to racists and perpetrators to target Asians, anyone appearing to be Chinese. Many on social media have expressed their frustration about arrested suspects that were let go on a “catch and release” system. New York City may seem vigilant having overcome many major tragedies, but when many victims of attacks are the most vulnerable, a call to end the anti-Asian hate and violence sounds good, but there does not seem to be an end in sight at this moment.
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