Anti-Asian hate crimes in San Francisco spiked 567% in 2021, San Francisco officials said this week.
“That is significant, that is concerning, and that is alarming,” Police Chief Bill Scott announced Tuesday during a press conference addressing the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community ahead of the lunar new year next week.
The SFPD reports eight cases of Asian hate crimes in 2019, nine in 2020, and 60 in 2021.
Chief Scott said more than 30 of the incidents in 2021 were committed by the same person who deliberately targeted Asians. He was arrested in August for burglaries, acts of vandalism, and also faces hate crime enhancements. The chief also highlighted other arrests including the person accused of stabbing two Asians at a bus stop on Market Street. “That case got a lot of publicity, it was a bad look for our city,” he lamented.
“I’m heartbroken, I’m frustrated, I’m embarrassed, I’m angry about the violence that continues to impact many of the people who are part of our Asian community but especially our seniors,” said Mayor London Breed.
She pointed to the diversity of the city and though various communities were hit with hate crimes, she acknowledged none more than the AAPI community, especially the elderly.
“It would have broken my heart to have my grandmother be attacked in the way,” Breed said during the press conference.
Earlier Tuesday, the Alliance for Asian American Justice announced the filing of a federal hate-crimes lawsuit against the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and the City and County of San Francisco, seeking to institute procedures that protect the AAPI community and ensure equal protection for justice.
The announcement was made at a press conference in San Francisco’s Chinatown district, claiming that “the justice system has often failed to treat victims with the dignity, respect and equal treatment that they deserve,” according to a statement from the Alliance.
The filing of the lawsuit follows an announcement Monday of the creation of a steering committee convened by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Victim Services Division (VSD) “to address the gaps in services for AAPI elderly victims – to examine the challenges with case coordination, underreporting, and to develop a standard set of best practices for providing services in a trauma-informed and culturally-appropriate manner to AAPI elderly victims.”
The plaintiff, Mr. Anh Le, 69, a Vietnamese-American, is a survivor of an assault which occurred in November 2019 in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
He says that “justice has not been served” by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office though his attacker was charged with terroristic threats and elder abuse. Le says a man threatened to kill him and attacked him with a glass bottle while the man’s son attacked Le with a baseball bat.
“I pleaded with them to stop but they relished in their ability to inflict pain and fear on a defenseless senior citizen,” Le said, emotionally recounting his trauma.
Le said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s office allowed the defendant to plea to a misdemeanor and one year probation, without consulting the victim.
CNN has requested comment from DA Boudin’s office and the lawyer of the man Le accused of assaulting him.
Le said he felt “cast aside, ignored, and re-victimized by the institutions that were supposed to protect him.
“I am speaking out about my experiences today at great expense to myself because I hope that the leaders of our communities will see and feel the pain and suffering of Asian-Americans across the state of California and nationally throughout our country.”
A nationwide problem
The recent data from San Francisco and the lawsuit comes just weeks after the death of Michelle Go in New York City.
The death of Go, who was pushed to her death in front of a Times Square subway train, jolted Asian Americans across the United States, even though the incident isn’t being investigated as a hate crime. It prompted a kind of collective grief in a community affected by an increase in anti-Asian violence in recent years, advocates say.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of people in the US have been victims of anti-Asian incidents, from verbal abuse to physical attacks.
In New York, hate crimes involving Asian Americans increased from 28 in 2020 to at least 129 incidents in 2021, said James Essig, NYPD chief of detectives, in a news conference last month.
When Go died, advocates and the Asian American community in New York were still mourning the death of Yao Pan Ma, a 62-year-old Asian man who police said was bashed in the head in an unprovoked attack in East Harlem.
He died from his injuries eight months after the attack, which happened a little over a month after eight people, including six Asian women, were killed in shootings at Atlanta-area spas.
On Sunday, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are coming together in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Philadelphia for a national commemoration of the one year anniversary of the killing of Vicha Ratanapakdee and honoring other victims of anti-Asian hate and bias.
Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old immigrant from Thailand, had recently received the coronavirus vaccine and was walking in the Anza Vista neighborhood the morning of January 28 when a man ran across the street and violently shoved him to the ground in what San Francisco District Attorney Boudin called “a horrific, senseless attack.”
Ratanapakdee never regained consciousness after the deadly assault.
Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.