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Man charged with hate crimes for attacking 7 Asian women in New York

A man who violently attacked seven Asian women in New York City during a three-hour spree in February 2022 was indicted on the charge of hate crimes by the state’s Supreme Court, according to a press release by the Manhattan District Attorney Monday.

Steven Zajonc, a 28-year-old White homeless man, allegedly assaulted seven Asian women aged 19-57 on the east side of Manhattan on February 27, beginning at approximately 6 p.m. and ending between 8:30 and 9 p.m. He approached the women from behind and struck them in the face with a closed fist or his elbow. During his final incident, he shoved a woman to the ground, reports Channel News Asia.

Six of the victims suffered injuries, including bleeding lacerations and facial bruising. Another victim was knocked unconscious and treated for a concussion.

“These attacks on seven New York women, each fueled by anti-Asian hate, are yet another sobering reminder of the demonstrable fears AAPI communities, particularly AAPI women, in our City continue to face,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg stated in the press release.

He added that the office used video surveillance footage to help identify the perpetrator but also had aid from others.

“This indictment is a result of our collaboration with the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force, and critically, assistance from the brave witnesses and victims who came forward to stand up against hate,” Bragg said. “My Office is a safe place to report crimes regardless of your immigration status. If you have been a victim or witness to a hate crime or bias incident, please call our Hate Crimes Hotline at 212-335-3100.”

Zajonc was indicted on six felony counts of assault as a hate crime and seven counts of aggravated harassment as a misdemeanor hate crime, reports The Hill.

Bragg noted that his office currently has 27 open anti-Asian hate crime cases. Zajonc’s indictment comes as the number of anti-Asian hate crimes has drastically surged over the past couple of years, since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

In December 2021, the New York Police Department reported that hate crimes targeting Asians rose by 361%, from 28 incidents in 2020 to 129 in 2021. The rise in anti-Asian hate helped drive the city’s 100% overall increase in hate crimes in 2021. Russell Jeung, co-founder of the hate incident reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate, told NBC News that many of the hate crimes in New York City occurred in low-income areas particularly suffering from the pandemic.

Survey results released in March by the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum showed that 74% of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women reported experiencing racism or discrimination over the past 12 months. More than half reported a stranger as the perpetrator, and almost half reported the incidents taking place in public. 51% of East Asian respondents said they felt less safe today than at the start of the pandemic. 71% reported feeling anxious or stressed due to fear of discrimination, harassment, or violence.

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