Several Queens lawmakers were joined by Asian American community leaders for a rally in Manhattan on Friday, Feb. 12 to support a South Korean diplomat who was brutally assaulted in front of the United Nations building last week.
The victim, a 53-year-old man, was punched in the face during an unprovoked attack on Wednesday, Feb. 9 while walking with a friend, according to lawmakers. No words were exchanged before the attack and the victim, who suffered a broken nose, even showed his South Korean diplomatic ID before the suspect fled.
State Assemblyman Ron Kim along with Assemblyman Ed Braunstein, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Senator John Liu, and Council Members Sandra Ung and Linda Lee, were joined by the Korean American Association of Greater New York, the Korean American Association of Queens, and the Asian American Federation at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at East 47th St., to condemn the continuing wave of assaults against the Asian American community, which first surged in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kim spoke on the need for Asian New Yorkers to stay united in defending themselves and each other from violent attacks.
“Enough is enough. Stop attacking Asians,” Kim said. “Throughout this pandemic, Asian American activists and organizers stood side by side with Black and brown communities fighting for racial and economic justice. We believe in a shared common cause. But every day, attack after attack, my community’s hope for a better future is slipping away. We want to turn the other cheek, to end the cycle of violence — is an eye for an eye really the only option? How much more trauma, how many more wounds, can we possibly endure?”
The representatives, most of whom are of Asian descent, expressed frustration with the lack of progress in ending the violence against their communities.
“Asians here in New York City, across our country, and now around the world are on high alert. We are angry, and we’re ready to stand up, speak out and fight back,” Liu said.
The string of anti-Asian attacks are becoming an everyday occurrence, according to Lee.
“New York is the world’s city, and we cannot allow attacks on our guests to become commonplace. I thank our allies for never wavering in their support of us, and standing with us in solidarity time and time again,” Lee said. “We must turn the corner on this epidemic of violence so that our community can begin to heal, and so that we can stop having these press conferences on a weekly basis.”
For the past two years, the Asian American community has seen a 361 percent increase in anti-Asian hate attacks, according to the NYPD.
Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation (AAF), said their organization has sounded the alarm and begged the city to work with them to find solutions.
However, the response has been slow or met with silence, Yoo said.
“We need support and funding to create safe zones, to teach our community ways to keep safe. We need funding to create a public education campaign to fight the plague of violence that is growing like cancer in our city,” Yoo said. “What is happening in our community is NOT a blip in history that will go away by ignoring it. We ask the City to step up to save our communities from this never-ending violence.”
John Park, a community leader, said Korean, Asian and all immigrant New Yorkers deserve to feel safe in their city, and the importance of “prioritizing the well-being and freedom of violent individuals over the physical safety of innocent New Yorkers.”
While the Korean American Family Service Center has been serving Asian immigrant communities for 33 years, Jeehae Fischer, executive director of the organization, said the ongoing senseless acts of hate hit too close to home.
“KAFSC stands alongside our allies in the ongoing fight for racial justice and equality. While we speak out against continued and unwarranted attacks on members of our community, our hope is to draw upon our community’s shared experiences, expertise, and energy to support one another in the continuation of our — not just today, this week or this year, but every day going forward, together,” Fischer said. “We all must stand in solidarity to seek justice and collectively be united to end racism and discrimination in our communities.”