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A woman heading to a demonstration in New York to protest hate crimes committed against Asian Americans this weekend was allegedly attacked over her sign’s message — just days after an Atlanta area gunman shot and killed eight people, many of whom were Asian Americans.
Shortly before noon on Sunday, officers responded to reports that a woman was attacked near a lower Manhattan subway station. The woman was heading to a protest organized in response to the Atlanta area shootings. Her suspected assailant, she claimed, first approached her and asked to see the sign she was carrying.
Deolivera allegedly destroyed her sign then attacked her after she confronted him.
“The individual attempted to place the sign into a garbage can but then placed the sign on the ground and stomped on it,” the New York City Police Department told Oxygen.com in a statement. “When the victim asked the male why he did that, he punched her twice in the face with a closed fist.”
Deolivera then allegedly fled into the Astor Place subway station. He was arrested hours later and charged with hate crime assault and criminal mischief. The New York City Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the incident.
The woman, who wasn’t named by police, had a bruised and cut lip, as well as a sprained ankle after the apparent attack. She was treated at Lenox Hill Healthplex Hospital.
“I feel unsafe at the moment and I’m very surprised it happened to me as well,” she told the Daily News. “That means this kind of incident is happening commonly right now...It’s racism. It should be getting better.”
The woman explained her sign had the words “Hate Has No Peace” written on it.
“This man was trying to ask for the sign nicely,” she added. “I said ‘OK, you can have it. I thought he was going to the protest. He took the sign and started to destroy it and tried to put it in the trash can.”
Seconds later, she alleged that Deolivera struck her twice in the head.
“He just come up and punch me twice — once on the right side near my mouth and the other is near my left eye,” she stated.
The woman said she hadn’t done anything to provoke her assailant. She injured her ankle, police said, while chasing after him following the alleged assault.
“I chased him, trying to grab him,” she explained. “I wanted to fight back. I did fight back a little bit, I was pushing him in his head and he ran away to the subway.”
In 2021, there have been 22 suspected hate crimes targeting Asian or Asian American individuals in New York City, according to police data. Police suspect at least one of those incidents is a COVID-19-related hate crime. This time last year, no similar crimes had been reported, officials said. Throughout 2020, 28 suspected hate crimes involving anti-Asian bias were reported.
“There’s no place for hate in NYC, or anywhere," New York City Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea tweeted.
The FBI has warned of a possible rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans due to potential misperceptions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Atlanta shooting brought the severity of the problem to the forefront,” Sumie Okazaki, Ph.D., a psychology professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, told Oxygen.com.
Okazaki said she was there at the demonstration in New York’s Chinatown on Sunday.
“I think it’s quite scary on a personal level to see that even on a day we were gathering as a community to protest what’s going on, there are these individual acts just happening just around us,” she said.
Okazaki, whose recent academic research involved surveying roughly 700 Asian-Americans across the country in regards to possible hate crime incidents, said that roughly 40% reported being victimized in-person or online.
“Even though it’s not everybody, it’s an alarming rate of folks reporting the physical assault,” Okazaki said. “There’s a level of alarm and anxiety in the community because of what’s going on.”
Sinophobia, or negative sentiments towards Chinese people and their culture, isn’t a new phenomenon, Okazaki said, and added that the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the issue.
“It’s a perfect storm of anxiety, fear, stress, and flaming the fire of racism,” Okazaki said. “What’s happening on a larger broader level is not new. Our nation’s lives have been turned upside down — a lot of people have lost jobs or are suffering from day to day stresses of managing the fear of the illness, as well as illness or death of loved ones."
Okazaki also cited former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, particularly his use of terms such as “China virus” and “kung flu,” as contributing to the toxic atmosphere that has allowed such hate to fester.
“It’s kind of tied together in people’s minds either consciously or unconsciously,” Okazaki said.
Editor's note: The original version of the story stated that Sumie Okazaki's research into possible hate crimes against Asian-Americans found roughly 1 in 4 reported being victimized in some manner. That figure is about 40%, Okazaki later clarified. The story has been updated.
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