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Photo by Dean Moses
(From l. to r.) City Councilman Donovan Richards, State Assemblyman Rodneyse Bichotte, State Senator John Liu, State Assemblymen Ron Kim, Clyde Vanel and Congresswoman Grace Meng address the rise in incidents involving bias, violence and potential hate crimes against the Asian-American community amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Local lawmakers are standing in solidarity with the Asian American community as extreme anti-Asian xenophobia is on the rise across the city following the global coronavirus outbreak.

State Assemblyman Ron Kim was joined Monday by Assembly members Yuh-Line Niou, Rodneyse Bichotte and Clyde Vanel, Senator John Liu, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Councilman Donovan Richards, and a representative from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ office. 

Kim and his colleagues denounced the rising tensions and targeting of Asian Americans in New York such as a woman with a face mask being assaulted, a subway passenger being sprayed with Febreze, and other troubling incidents. They also decried the normalizing of images with Asian faces by the media. 

“While we are working overtime in Albany to provide the necessary funds and tools to protect all New Yorkers from the coronavirus, it is disheartening to see increasing incidents of verbal assaults and vicious attacks against Asian Americans,” Kim said. “We must not let this virus become the trigger for a wave of pre-existing racist sentiments against Asian Americans. The virus does not see race, walls, or boundaries. Now is the time for solidarity, compassion, and empathy — not hatred, violence and ugliness.” 

The racist behavior is in some ways more frightening than the disease itself, Liu said. 

“Everyone is working hard to overcome the unprecedented spread of coronavirus,” Liu said. “At the same time we all also have to be ever vigilant against negative stereotypes as well as outright racism and violence.” 

The legislators reinstated the evident truth that the energy and efforts of the city and state should be focused on the virus itself, which can and has been spread by anyone, and not against any single face or community. Since the coronavirus outbreak, Asian American businesses in many industries throughout New York, particularly in the service and retail sector, have also suffered dramatic declines in revenue. 

Meng noted that concern and fear about the illness is not an excuse to discriminate against Asian Americans. 

“Any type of discrimination, regardless of the form it takes, is unacceptable, and must never be tolerated,” Meng said. “As I have been saying, people must not panic about coronavirus. People should be vigilant and prudent, and listen to our health professionals, but still go about their daily routines.” Niou is calling for unity and remaining educated on the growing public health emergency. 

Niou is calling for unity and remaining educated on the growing public health emergency. 

“Together we must stop the spread of the unfounded harmful stereotypes and hateful words that people are using to demonize our Asian American community thoughtful and reasonable discussions,” Niou said. 

As Public Advocate, Williams said, “We cannot let fear and bigotry overcome facts amid the rise in coronavirus cases. Turning our backs on our fellow community members will only hurt us as a city. Our office stands in solidarity with our Asian American communities and all of our immigrant communities, especially during these cases and the hysteria surrounding them.”

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