Racist Attacks Against Asians Continue to Rise as the Coronavirus Threat Grows
With at least 805,772 confirmed cases and 40,316 deaths from coronavirus-related illness reported in the United States, the World Health Organization announced that the coronavirus had become a pandemic in early March.
As with any pandemic, people have been on high alert, postponing travel plans and practicing social distancing to try to prevent themselves from contracting the virus. But as more cases are reported each day, more misinformation and wide-spread panic have contributed to racially motivated attacks on people of Asian descent or anyone who looks East Asian.
Hate crime task forces have been responding to calls and social media users who have been posting videos and tweeting stories of attacks — both verbal and physical — that have been posted online to try to find perpetrators who've been targeting Asians.
People are also using the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus, which translates to "I am not a virus" in French, to share their own stories and rally support online.
Here's what been reported across the globe — from the U.S. to Australia.
Teen Stabs Three Members of an Asian-American Family, Including a 2- and 6-Year-Old, in Texas
Jose L. Gomez, 19, attempted to murder three members of an Asian-American family, including two toddlers, at a Sam's Club in Midland, Texas, according to federal authorities, the Daily Beast reported on March 31, 2020.
Gomez is a Sam's Club employee who confessed to the authorities that he had tried to kill the family "because he thought the family was Chinese, and infecting people with coronavirus," according to an FBI analysis report obtained by ABC News. Gomez is now facing several charges, including three counts of attempted capital murder and one count of aggravated assault for his March 14, 2020, crime. He is currently being held on several bonds totaling $1 million.
Man Pours ‘Unknown Substance’ Over Woman, Who Now Has Chemical Burns on Her Face & Body
A 39-year-old woman in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, was taking out her garbage when a man outside her apartment doused her with an "unknown substance" that gave her chemical burns on her face, neck, shoulder and back, BuzzFeed News reported on April 8, 2020.
In a video released by the NYPD, the man can be seen waiting on a stoop next to the woman's building and approaches her from behind with a bottle in his hand.
"There was no interaction between the individual and the victim prior to the assault," the NYPD told BuzzFeed News. The police also confirmed to the outlet that the victim is Asian.
The woman was admitted to the Maimonides Medical Center and is in stable condition, according to police.
Two University of Melbourne Students Attacked & Told ‘We’re Going to Kill You’ in Australia
Two students claim they saw a group of young women yelling "get out of our country" to other people as they were walking at approximately 5:30 p.m. on April 15, 2020.
"It wasn't directed at us, but then we made eye contact and they started saying it to us," one of the students told 10 daily. Both women have declined to give their names for fear of retaliation, according to the Australian outlet, but they are from countries in southern Asia and have been studying at the University of Melbourne for several months.
The students claim that prior to the attack, the group of women told them to "get out" and yelled references to the coronavirus. The two continued to keep walking as the women said, "We're going to kill you," before one of them picked up "a pipe or something solid" and threw it at one of the students' heads.
"My friend was stunned, and the girl grabbed her hair and started punching her head, kicking her stomach," the student alleged.
The fight was captured on a mobile phone by a witness, according to the outlet, and shows a young woman in a dark hoodie and white skirt punching one of the students before the student drops to the floor and appears to be kneed and kicked in the head.
Prior to this altercation, the two students told 10 daily that they had already been abused several times with coronavirus-related taunts and people fake coughing on them.
On April 17, the University of Melbourne's Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell condemned the attacks in a statement, and confirmed that the university would be "providing every assistance to the students."
"This is a disgusting and unprovoked attack on two of our female students. There is no place for violence in a modern, future-facing society like Australia. These senseless and vicious attacks on two young women must never be tolerated in our community. The people who did this are a disgrace," Maskell said in the statement.
"Police are investigating the assault and I very strongly urge anyone with any information about the attackers to contact them," he continued. "They must be caught and dealt with using the full force of the law."
N.Y.C. Woman Needs Stitches After Four Teens Attack Her on a Bus
Three teenage girls were charged with hate crimes after attacking a 51-year-old woman on a bus in The Bronx, New York, CNN reported on April 6, 2020. The police are still searching for the fourth suspect, whom NYPD believes is likely a teen, too.
The 15-year-old suspects made anti-Asian remarks toward the woman and told her she had caused coronavirus, NYPD Lt. Thomas Antonetti told CNN. They called her an expletive and asked her why she wasn't wearing a mask. One of the suspects then struck the woman's head with an umbrella before all four fled the bus. The woman has since received stitches for the cut on her head, the NYPD said in a statement.
After the incident, officers arrested three of the suspects near the scene and charged them with hate crime assaults, menacing and harassment for the attack, the NYPD said.
Nepalese Family Finds Car Torched in Alleged Hate Crime in the U.K.
The Limbu family from Kent, England, abruptly fled their home after hearing an explosion around 11.pm. on April 15, 2020, only to discover that their Ford Focus was on fire, NextShark reported on April 20.
"Man, somebody lit my dad's car on fire," Milan Limbu wrote in an Instagram Story of the incident, according to the outlet. "I'm guessing it's a hate crime on us Asians as there have been numerous crimes around the world on 'Chinese' people because of the coronavirus. And the thing is, we're not even Chinese." Limbu also told the outlet that he thinks it was a hate crime against Asians because he had learned of another Nepalese family whose car was lit on fire shortly after.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service reportedly arrived at the Limbu home after 11 p.m. to put out the fire, before leaving to help the second family whose car was torched.
"I felt sad and scared that this is happening to people I know as well," Limbu told NextShark. "[The subsequent incident] confirmed my suspicions of this being a hate crime, because the chances of both Asian families attacked in a neighborhood full of British people would be impossible to be coincidental."
An investigation on the incident has been set and Limbu was told by police that they would "patrol the areas at night when staff are available for deployment."
As for the ongoing attacks being reported around the world, Limbu told PEOPLE, "Everyone is struggling against this virus and it's understandable that people are frustrated, but fighting against each other is just adding to the issues we're all facing today."
"Let us all do better and help each other instead," he added.
Chinese Fencing Student Gets Brutally Assaulted in Adelaide, Australia
Mark Holgate, a fencing teacher from Australia, said he was "ashamed to be Australian" after sharing that his student was attacked for speaking another language, and will now need "expensive facial reconstruction surgery" to prevent him from losing his eye.
"Today I'm angry and ashamed to be Australian. Three days ago a Chinese student of mine was cowardly assaulted for walking down the street speaking another language," Holgate shared in a Facebook post on Feb. 24, 2020. "This is Constantine, and he's one of the nicest people I've met, and it's been a privilege to train and fence with him. Now that's all over, he won't be fencing for a long time. The coward who attacked him, spewing racist trash and telling him to speak English, smashed a huge section of his cheek bone, and he's going to need serious and expensive facial reconstruction surgery to keep from losing the eye."
"Constantine traveled from China to australia to learn historical fencing and this is what australia has given him. I'm just gutted for him. Well done Australia, way to encourage tourism," he continued.
"Our country has an ugly history of racism. Challenge it and call it out. And look after your Asian friends, the corona virus is just another excuse that's stirring up racist violence," he added before reporting that "thankfully the assailant was stupid, coming back to the scene of the crime, and was apprehended by police."
Holgate created a GoFundMe page to help Constantine with his medical bills. The goal was set at $6,000, and through the support of over 200 donors, he's exceeded his goal by $2,000.
Filmmaker Lucy Sheen Told to ‘f— off’ and Go ‘back 2 China’ in London
British-Chinese actor and filmmaker Sheen tweeted on Feb. 18, 2020, that she had been sitting on a bus "when a complete stranger whispered in my ear 'why don't you f— off back 2 China & take ur filth with you.' " She later told the Mirror that a white male passenger had whispered the statement in her ear.
"In my case, what shocked me was the stealth – the fact that this person had obviously made a decision to say what he did but do it in a covert manner," Sheen told the outlet, after expressing that racism against Asians in the U.K. is "nothing new."
"If he'd shouted that out I can deal with that, I could have handled that," she continued.
"It's like any form of bias, prejudice or racism that is undercover, ingrained, institutionalized or structural, it's very very hard to challenge or to try and change those entrenched views," she added.
She went on to claim that "you can get away with" subtle racism with someone who is East Asian more easily than, for example, black or South Asian people because the "filter…most people use [in relation to those other races] does not extend [to East Asians]".
As her followers replied to her tweet with their condolences, Sheen responded by letting them know that she's okay. She responded to one social media user, who tweeted, "This is awful, painful… completely unacceptable. So sad to hear this has happened to you," by writing, "Thnx, it is a sad indictment of current times."
Student from Singapore Attacked by Four Men Shouting ‘I Don’t Want Your Coronavirus in My Country’ in London
Jonathan Mok, 23, said in a Facebook post (which has now been edited, but parts of his original statement and photos were reposted by Instagram account ricefeed) that he was walking down Oxford Street, a busy shopping avenue in London, around 9:15 p.m. on Feb. 24, 2020, when he heard voices yelling "coronavirus" at him. After making eye contact with one of his harassers, the man shouted, "Don't you dare look at me," as he walked by.
"I was shocked and angry because he directed a racist remark at me and had the audacity to shout at me like I had wronged him," he wrote.
Mok said that he then tried to confront the group of men, but they started beating him up, shouting, "I don't want your coronavirus in my country."
In an earlier Facebook post, Mok said that he was punched in the face twice and "exploded with blood," according to The Washington Post. He also shared photos (which have since been taken down) of his injuries — facial fractures, swelling and a black eye — which doctors told him may require an operation to fix.
On March 4, 2020, British police shared images of four men they want to interview in connection with the attack, and Detective Sergeant Emma Kirby said they are "committed to finding the perpetrators," according to BBC News.
"To those people who told me that London isn't racist, think again," Mok had written. "Racists constantly find excuses to expound their hatred — and in this current backdrop of the coronavirus, they've found yet another excuse."
London Man Mugged and Left with a Broken Nose as Attacker Filmed and Yelled ‘Coronavirus’ Repeatedly
Pawat Silawattakun, a Londoner who moved to the city from Thailand 10 years ago, said he was left with a broken nose after two teenagers attacked him on the street, according to BBC London.
"I heard a voice from the left-hand side, and when I looked over there was someone filming me," Silawattakun told BBC. "I didn't hear what they were saying yet but as I started noticing what the sounds were, it was just 'coronavirus' being repeatedly shouted at me."
"Before I got the chance to say anything, another teen ran up from behind me and grabbed the headphones from my neck," he said. "[The teen] didn't run away immediately. He took the headphones and then he looked back at me and started laughing. He didn't run away."
Silawattakun then explained that he was punched in the face. His glasses had flown off because of the impact and he was left with a broken nose. The attack, he said, has made him feel uneasy in the city he loves and calls home.
Vietnamese Art Curator Dropped by Exhibitor Who Claims Her Presence Would ‘Create Hesitation’
Artist and designer An Nguyen was told her assistance would no longer be needed at a U.K. art fair because she would be assumed to be carrying the virus, according to The Guardian.
Nguyen shared a screenshot on Twitter of the email she received from art dealer and curator Raquelle Azran, which states, "I am very sorry to have to cancel your assistance at the fair next week. The coronavirus is causing much anxiety everywhere, and fairly or not, Asians are being seen as carriers of the virus."
"Your presence on the stand would unfortunately create hesitation on the part of the audience to enter the exhibition space," Azran continued. "I apologise for this and hope we can meet and perhaps work together in future."
After Nguyen's tweet began to go viral and The Guardian reached out to Azran for a statement regarding her email, the outlet reported that she apologized.
"[It was] insensitive and in hindsight reflected poor judgment for me to cancel An Nguyen joining my stand as an assistant," Azran said.
"I shall continue, as I have over the past two decades, to encourage and exhibit Vietnamese artists and help them achieve the recognition they deserve."
Cleveland Woman Gets Denied by Airbnb Host Because ‘Local Health Advisories’
Constance Yang, a working professional living in Cleveland, claims to have been discriminated against while trying to book an Airbnb in early February 2020 for a two-day trip to Seattle. The host, Yang told PEOPLE via email, is a superhost and had a near five-star review.
"After the stay was confirmed, the host canceled my booking after 2 days without any communication beforehand," Yang said. The host had only left a three-word message that said, "local health advisories."
After asking what that meant, she received no response.
"I replied and asked why it was canceled, and asked if she's concerned about coronavirus, no reply/explanation was provided," Yang said. "My friend checked the same listing [a] couple days after, the place is still open for booking for everyone else — meaning she [was] not shutting down the business."
"On my profile it shows my last name, which is probably very obvious Chinese/Korean; it also shows I speak English and Mandarin," Yang said. "My profile picture shows I'm an Asian female."
Yang added, "Just because I'm Chinese, it doesn't mean I get coronavirus by default. It would be totally reasonable for the host to ask if I had traveled to China in the past 14-days, however she did not. I had to have my friend who has a non-Asian-looking last name to book another Airbnb in Seattle."
In response to Yang's claims, an Airbnb spokesperson told PEOPLE in a statement, "Airbnb takes any report of discrimination in our community seriously and will work to immediately support those impacted. We've suspended this host while we investigate further."
Los Angeles High School Student Attacked After Bullies Accuse Him of Having Coronavirus
An Asian-American high school student was attacked in late February 2020 when bullies accused him of having coronavirus.
The 16-year-old was taken to the emergency room to be checked out, CBS News reported.
"He went to the hospital originally, and went to the emergency room," said executive director of the L.A. County Human Relations Commission Robin Toma during a press conference, according to CBS News. "They were taking MRIs to ensure he didn't have a concussion or other harm."
The student's name and school have not been released.
At the same press conference, L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis condemned the bullies' actions and made clear that the coronavirus is not something L.A. residents should be worried about, blaming the spread of misinformation.
"I am concerned because, as someone who is also of immigrant background, I know what it means to face discrimination and racial profiling," Solis said at the press conference.
"And when I heard of the recent incident of a young child being bullied and actually was assaulted because he was pointed out as being of Asian background — and children, unfortunately, repeat things that are said by other people, including their own parents, so we need to put a stop to that."
L.A. County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo said that bullying will not be tolerated.
It is unclear how many people were involved in the altercation or if the bullies are being punished.
If you've been attacked or have witnessed an attack, please contact your local authorities. You can also report your incident at http://www.asianpacificpolicyandplanningcouncil.org/stop-aapi-hate/.
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