A 91-year-old man was pushed to the ground. A 71-year-old woman was attacked and robbed. 84-year-old man who died after being assaulted on his morning walk.
As the Lunar New Year begins on Friday, Asian Americans in the Bay Area are afraid to leave their homes, not only because of the coronavirus, but because of a wave of high-profile attacks on seniors these last months.
On Tuesday, Nancy O’Malley, the district attorney for Alameda County, which includes Oakland, said she would create a special response unit to investigate anti-Asian crimes.
“We will help victims heal from their trauma and help businesses grow strong again here in Chinatown. We will all be vigilant in protecting the Asian community, ”O’Malley said at a press conference in Oakland.
Yet others say it points to a historic neglect on the part of officials to invest in their communities, a disparity exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic – and by politicians like former President Trump using racist language like ‘Chinese virus’ Or “kung flu”.
Cynthia Choi, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, a group that has been tracking racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since the start of the pandemic, spoke to locals too scared to step outside. She said her group had received complaints about 2,800 racist incidents across the country since last March, including around 700 in the nine counties on the San Francisco Bay Area.
Perhaps the most shocking was the death of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee. Surveillance footage from Jan. 28 shows Ratanapakdee walking through the Anza Vista neighborhood of San Francisco when someone charges him, pushing him full force onto the sidewalk.
Ratanapakdee, a Thai immigrant, hit his head on the sidewalk. He succumbed to his injuries a few days later. Police arrested Antoine Watson, 19, in connection with the attack, charging him with murder and elder abuse.
Annie Esposito, the Assistant District Attorney for Alameda County responsible for leading the Special Response Unit, pointed out that while their ultimate goal is prosecution, their office has additional resources for the community that may be unknown. due to the language barrier.
“What we’ve found in these crimes that target older Asian Americans is that they’re very reluctant to call the police,” Esposito said. “They are reluctant to report crimes, and they are sometimes reluctant to prosecute. And in part, we want to help them understand what this process involves.
She added that one such resource was a family justice center, designed to help victims of crime connect with counselors and therapists, as well as law enforcement.
Esposito, who is of Asian American descent, said she experienced firsthand prejudice during the summer. She was walking her dog, she said, when she passed another woman doing the same.
“But then this woman had a very violent reaction and pulled the dog on her leash, and started to swear and swear,” Esposito said. “And she said, ‘What did I tell you about these people?'”
“With this attention,” she added, “I hope there will be more resources for the community, to also raise awareness that there are those perpetrators who can target vulnerable people.”
Oakland Police on Tuesday charged Yahya Muslim, 28, with assault, beating and mistreating an elder in connection with the attack on the 91-year-old man, as well as two separate attacks on a man 60 and 55 years old. one year old woman, according to BuzzFeed News. Esposito said his office is still investigating whether to charge a Muslim with hate crime.
However, Muslim was already in custody on unrelated charges. BuzzFeed. And, on the same day, news broke of two more anti-Asian attacks: An insult painted on the side of a Chinese school building in San Francisco, an Asian man in San Leandro in Alameda County stole while he was trying to deposit money.
“We have to address the fact that people are turning to crime as a way of life,” said Choi, who is also the co-director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, a San Francisco-based civil rights group. “For us, it uses basic types of intervention and prevention programs, jobs, programs, addressing affordable housing.”
Loren Taylor, an Oakland city councilor and co-chair of the City’s Public Safety Reimagining Task Force – founded last summer amid a national count of racism in the police, with the ultimate goal of reducing by half the city’s police budget – said the recent violence had sparked new interest in justice among residents.
“When I look at my residents in East Oakland, my residents are never the ones saying, take the police,” he said. “What they were saying is that the system is broken and we need to provide more resources to keep us safe.”
“It is important that we focus on those who are most affected by the violence and the levels of crime that put our safety in question,” he added.
But Vivian Huang, campaign and organizing director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network – an environmental justice group specializing in working with immigrant communities – stressed that a solution should address violence in its root.
“Security is having dignity, having connections with others, understanding each other’s needs, having access to resources,” Huang said. “Chinatown, like other communities of color, has a long history of divestment. And I think the pandemic illustrated a really stark example of the immense disparities in our society.
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