"There've been so many attacks against the Asian community, especially the elders in our community," says Olivia Munn

By Greg Hanlon
February 25, 2021 09:34 AM
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Olivia Munn continues to speak out about anti-Asian violence following an attack earlier this month against her friend's mother outside a New York City bakery.

Munn and her friend, Sam Cheng, sat down with Jeremy Parsons for a segment airing on PEOPLE (The TV Show!) tonight. They discussed the harrowing Feb. 16 attack on Chen's mom, during which authorities allege that Patrick Mateo, 47, became belligerent toward her and shoved her onto a metal newspaper box, according to a criminal complaint obtained by PEOPLE.

Listen below to our interview with activist Amanda Nguyen on her fight to end hate crimes against Asian Americans on PEOPLE Every Day.

Authorities said Cheng's mother lost consciousness and needed stitches on her head. Video of the attack surfaced online, and after Munn posted the video along with photos of the suspect on her Instagram account, it went viral, leading to Mateo's arrest.

"These racist hate crimes against our elders have got to stop. We're gonna find this guy. Queens, Internet, please... do your s—t. 🙏🏼," the actress wrote alongside photos of the suspect prior to his arrest.

Olivia Munn
Photos of the suspect shared by Olivia Munn
| Credit: Olivia Munn/Instagram

Cheng says his mom was made uncomfortable by the media attention and wanted to "hide away from the world. But other than that, she's just really glad to be alive. She's glad that everything is in the past now and that she's able to move on."

Munn, 40, says that seeing her friend's mom hurt was "devastating."

"You know, there've been so many attacks against the Asian community, especially the elders in our community. Over the past year, it's been an astronomical rise. I mean, just in New York alone, it's a 1,900% increase in just a year," she said.

Munn, whose mother is a refugee from Vietnam, said older victims of attacks are often reluctant to speak out — which she believes prevents the full scope of the problem from being known.

"Our parents have been conditioned to keep their head down, to take it on the chin, to keep going to be treated like second-class citizens," she said, adding that Cheng's mother likely wouldn't have reported the assault.

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According to a recent Harris poll, 75 percent of Asian Americans are fearful of increased hate and discrimination toward them. Connie Chung Joe, CEO of the nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, says that there have been at least 2,800 hate incidents targeting Asians nationwide in the past year but that those numbers may be deceptively low.

"You have to think that this is just the tip of the iceberg," Joe told PEOPLE. "A lot of people don't report it, especially if you come from immigrant communities or English is not your first language. There's a lot more that is going unnoticed."

Many advocates have blamed, in part, former president Donald Trump — who referred to COVID-19 as the "China virus" and "Kung Flu" — for fueling the racism

RELATED VIDEO: Olivia Munn Says Anti-Asian Hate Crimes 'Have Got to Stop' After Friend's Mother Is Attacked

Mateo has been charged with third-degree assault and second-degree harassment, according to the criminal complaint.  

He has been released on his own recognizance without bail, because the charges that he faces are not bailable offenses, a spokesperson for the Queens District Attorney's office tells PEOPLE.

He is due back in court on April 21. It was not immediately clear who his lawyer is.  

To learn more and to report crimes, go to: Asian Americans Advancing Justice (advancingjustice-aajc.org) Stop the AAPI Hate (stopaapihate.org) National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (aapiern.org)Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA (advancingjustice-la.org) and Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council (asianpacificpolicyandplanningcouncil.org).

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