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AAPI organizers demand Mass. official resign over anti-Asian photo

The council member wore a costume meant to resemble Asian spa workers in newly resurfaced photos.
A "Stop Asian Hate" rally in Malden, Mass., on Dec. 12, 2021.
A "Stop Asian Hate" rally in Malden, Mass., on Dec. 12.Matthew Chan / Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition

Asian American and Pacific Islander activists in Malden, Massachusetts, have re-ignited their call for the resignation of a City Council woman who wore an anti-Asian Halloween costume. 

A demonstration over the weekend comes after a photo from 2019 resurfaced last month showing the women, Jadeane Sica, wearing an Orchids of Asia T-shirt and a bamboo hat and holding a bottle of lotion.

Two years ago, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft made headlines after being accused of paying for sexual acts at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida. In the photo, Sica's husband, John Bernbaum, is wearing a Patriots sweatshirt, a “Super Bowl champions” hat, a large gold chain and holding a replica of a Super Bowl trophy.

A photo posted on Facebook shows Malden City Councilor Jadeane Sica dressed in an Orchids of Asia-themed costume with her husband during a Halloween party in 2019.
A photo posted on Facebook shows Malden City Councilor Jadeane Sica and her husband dressed for a Halloween party in 2019.Provided by The Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition

Sica did not immediately respond to NBC’s requests for comment. In a statement on Facebook last month, Sica apologized for the racist costume, adding that she “can and will do better.” 

“Since that time, many, myself included, have become much more aware of the fact that the women involved in cases like these are all too often vulnerable members of the Asian community who are victims of exploitation,” Sica wrote in a Facebook post. “Looking back at the choice of costume through a more enlightened lens allows me to see now what I didn’t see then, which is that costumes that in any way portray another culture can be hurtful and, in my case, send a message inconsistent with how I’ve lived my public and private life.”

Though the charges against Kraft were dropped last year, the spa’s owner and manager still faced charges of being involved in human trafficking. The controversy stemming from the photo also comes after six women of Asian descent were among eight people killed in a shooting at three Atlanta-area spas in March. 

In a statement to NBC Asian America, the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition (GMAACC) said they are “horrified” and “disgusted” by the racist Halloween image. 

“In Malden, if you are Asian: Your city leader will openly and unapologetically wear a racist and whorephobic costume mocking your people with no consequence from the city,” the organization said in a statement.

The city of Malden did not respond to NBC’s request for comment. 

After GMAACC publicly condemned the photo, it said it was hit with racist hate mail. According to a screenshot shared with NBC Asian America, organizers were told to “drink bat soup” after speaking up about the costume. 

During the Stop Asian Hate rally, organizers said that a protester threatened to attack them while spewing hateful rhetoric. According to a video obtained at the rally, the man said, “your people eat dogs,” and then unleashed his dog at the rally. 

On Tuesday, the Malden Police Department identified a 36-year-old male connected to the incident. Authorities said the investigation is ongoing. 

But for advocates, Sica's apology is not enough. 

“We need action behind our elected officials’ words,” GMAACC said in its statement. “We do not believe that structural racism can be solved interpersonally, by ‘seeing no color’ and ‘loving one another,’ as described by Councillor Sica.”