A rally against anti-Asian violence in New York on February 27 drew prominent city and national leaders, demonstrating the rising potency of the issue.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave public remarks during the rally, both calling for New Yorkers to take a stand together. Mayor de Blasio also warned of the consequences for those who commit racially driven crimes. “Anyone who commits an act of hatred against the Asian American community will be found, will be arrested, will be prosecuted,” he said. “We have to show people we mean business.”
New York State Attorney General Letitia James spoke as well, calling for increased patrols throughout the city and in subways in response to an increase in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans speaking at a rally at Foley Square Saturday. “We need a patrol which is staffed by police officers who are committed to addressing and stamping out hate,” she said. “We need a unit, a bureau dedicated, dedicated to this issue. Volunteers will not do. A full-time dedicated bureau. Twenty-four hours, seven days a week that patrol the streets, patrol the subways and keep the Asian community safe from harm.”
Saturday’s rally, which was organized by the Asian American Federation, follows the recent slashing attack on Noel Quintana, a 61-year-old from Brooklyn, on a subway in Manhattan. Quintana also spoke at the rally: “I called for help, but nobody came to help. Nobody took a video,” he said. “There were a lot of New Yorkers. I hope New Yorkers look out for each other.”
Twenty-seven hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian bias were reported in 2020 according the NYPD, up from just one during the previous year. A total of 21 arrest have been made.
Several red beret-wearing members of New York’s Guardian Angels were present at Saturday’s rally, including the group’s CEO and founder, Curtis Sliwa, who is running for Mayor as a Republican. Sliwa, who did not speak to the crowd, said in an interview that his organization has seen an increase in anti-Asian incidents, which he attributes, in part, to the emergence of the coronavirus.
“We as Guardian Angels, we were patrolling in Chinatown, Flushing, and Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn back in March during the lockdown, because the attacks started then,” he said. “And the police weren’t paying attention. Politicians weren’t paying attention. And it just kept growing.”
Sliwa said that anti-Asian crime now occurs daily across the city. “So, it’s good to see everybody rallying. But it’s got to be more than just a rally, they actually have to put boots on the ground,” Sliwa said. “Get those cops in these neighborhoods so they can physically prevent, be a deterrent, and, when necessary, make an arrest.”
Jackie Quan, a 42-year resident of New York City who attended the event said she has witnessed a noticeable increase in racial tension in the city. Quan said she recently began accompanying her teenage son to activities in neighboring boroughs because she does not feel comfortable with him riding the subway alone. “This is the first time in my life that I don’t feel safe taking the subway,” she said.
She said she thinks the uptick in anti-Asian attacks was caused by paranoia stemming from the pandemic, but has also been exacerbated by decreased subway ridership, lack of tourism, and further economic uncertainty throughout the city.
“We need more love, more peace, more security and safety, more business to be alive, more people to, like, come together as a community and not have so much hate,” she said. “We have too much hate in this city.”
Quan said she thinks New Yorkers are beginning to become aware of the anti-Asian problem but says the country has work to do to end racism and hate. “This is an American problem,” she said. “And it’s not just an Asian problem. All racism is a problem.”