NEW YORK — Andrew Yang called for the NYPD Asian Hate Crime Task Force to be fully funded during a press conference Wednesday, in the wake of a mass shooting in Georgia and a steep uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes this year and last in New York.
“What started out as invisibility or a sense of foreignness has now become hatred, violence, assault [and] people feeling that we do not belong in our own country or in our own streets,” Yang, a leading mayoral candidate, told reporters during a hastily arranged press conference in Times Square.
Yang, the son of Taiwanese immigrants who would be the first mayor of Asian descent, said he has been “always accustomed to certain levels of racism,” but said the wave of violence demanded an aggressive response.
He listed off some of the most recent incidents of attacks against Asian New Yorkers, including a woman who required stitches after being shoved to the ground in Flushing and a woman who had acid thrown in her face in Sunset Park.
The rise of hate crimes has been attributed to incendiary rhetoric from former President Donald Trump and others amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Trump has referred to the novel coronavirus as the “China virus” and the “Kung Flu” — including another reference Tuesday night during an interview on Fox News.
“We should be treating hate crimes as such. And make no mistake, these women were targeted on the basis of their race,” said Yang of the Georgia shootings that left eight dead. “I’ve called for the funding of the Asian Hate Crimes task force. This is not something that volunteers can be asked to address.”
Yang has noted on numerous occasions the issue of unreported incidents of hate crimes and called on the city to ramp up its outreach to areas with dense Asian populations.
“We should be reaching out to our communities in foreign language media and different languages. People can tell when you’re invested and trying to reach them,” said Yang, noting that he has seen various city helplines that don’t offer enough languages.
Yang has addressed Asian hate crimes multiple times on the campaign trail. He hosted a February town hall with Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Assemblymember Ron Kim, Asian American Federation executive director Jo-Ann Yoo and Center for Anti-Violence Education program manager Rej Joo.
Asked about his own experiences with racism during his mayoral campaign, Yang deferred judgment, saying he’s focused on making a positive case for mayor. “I’ll leave it to others to determine.”
The NYPD on Wednesday deployed teams of officers to areas of the city with large populations of Asian-descended New Yorkers.
“We have to be clear that what we saw here is nothing less than domestic terrorism, people killed in their workplaces, going about their lives simply because of their ethnicity,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters during his daily morning briefing. “There is today a major deployment of NYPD counterterrorism forces in communities around the city, including some of the most prominent Asian communities of Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, wherever we get any reports of concerns, we’re going to make sure to have a real strong presence.”
Janaki Chadha contributed to this report.
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