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N.Y., Calif. lawmakers promise resources, protection in wake of attacks on Asian seniors

California passed legislation that will allocate $1.4 million to researching and reporting anti-Asian hate incidents.
A grocery store in the Chinatown district of Oakland, Calif., this month.Stephen Lam / San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

California lawmakers passed a bill this week that would allocate $1.4 million in state funds to tracking incidents of anti-Asian hate. The legislation was drafted as part of an effort to combat the string of violent attacks against seniors that has been mirrored in Asian American communities across the U.S.

If the legislation is signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom — who has not said whether he supports it — the money will go directly to Stop AAPI Hate, an online system where victims of bias, hate or violence can report their experiences. The form, started last March after pandemic-fueled anti-Asian bias incidents, had over 2,800 self-reports in 2020. The states with the largest share were California, with 43 percent of all incidents, and New York, with 13 percent.

“We are outraged by the disturbing incidents we’ve seen this past week where Asian American elders have been attacked in the San Francisco Bay Area,” the co-founders of Stop AAPI Hate said in a statement. “These violent assaults have a devastating impact on our community as they are part of an alarming rise in anti-Asian American hate during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

One of the measure’s key proponents, Assemblyman Phil Ting, the Budget Committee chair, introduced it as part of California’s ongoing fiscal pandemic response. He said in a statement that allocating the funds to Stop AAPI Hate will allow more research and reporting to be done about the trend and help the government get a sense of the problem.

“The rise in hate incidents against Asian Americans during the pandemic is alarming. But, we can’t solve a problem without knowing how big it is. New state funding allows the data gathering to continue, and the research will ultimately lead us to solutions that will make all communities safer,” Ting said.

Bay Area Asian communities have been hit hard by the recent violence, including Chinatowns in Oakland and San Francisco, where Asians over 60 have been targeted in robberies, burglaries and assaults. Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84, was killed after beings shoved to the ground in a Jan. 31 attack captured on surveillance video. A 91-year-old man was violently shoved the same day and also made national headlines because of a video capturing the incident.

New York City, which saw a sharp increase in anti-Asian violence in 2020, has also implemented programs to support Asians in identifying and reporting bias. At a news conference Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the uptick in 2021 and spoke to the role of the Asian Hate Crimes Taskforce, which was started by the NYPD last year. After a 61-year-old man was slashed across the face on a subway train this month, the mayor said a more concerted effort would be made to monitor the subways.

“If you dare to raise your hand against a member of our Asian communities, you will suffer the consequences,” de Blasio said. “The NYPD is focused like never before.”

But critics of the task force say that more policing might do more harm than good.

"I think it's hard for us to fundamentally reconcile that that entity is going to protect our community,” Kham Moua, policy director at the civil rights organization Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, told NBC Asian America in September. “Oftentimes, violence against people of color is coming from law enforcement.”