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Woman charged with hate crime over anti-Asian pepper-spray attack in New York City

Four Asian women told police that a woman told them to "go back to your country" and pepper-sprayed them in Manhattan this month.

New York City authorities charged a woman with hate crimes in relation to an anti-Asian attack in Manhattan this month.

Madeline Barker, 47, was arraigned on multiple charges Saturday, including four counts of second-degree aggravated harassment and three counts of third assault as a hate crime, according to court records. She was also charged with a single count of attempted assault as a hate crime.

Police have described the suspect as a woman likely in her 50s and around 5 feet, 3 inches tall.
Police have described the suspect as a woman likely in her 50s and around 5 feet, 3 inches tall.NYPD

Police said they were looking for Barker after a video showed her making anti-Asian remarks and pepper-spraying four people near Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Barker confirmed her identity with authorities when she was shown a still image from the video, said a complaint filed by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. 

The four women who were pepper-sprayed, who all identify as Asian, told authorities that Barker told them, "Why don't you go back to your country," according to the complaint.

A judge issued Barker a $20,000 bond, which had not been posted by Sunday afternoon, according to court records.

An attorney listed for Barker, who works for the Legal Aid Society, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An analysis of hate crime data published this year by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found that anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 339% last year compared with the year before, with New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities surpassing their record numbers in 2020.

The increase was part of an overall 11% rise in suspected hate crimes reported to police across a dozen of the largest cities in the U.S., with the report finding that Black Americans remained the most targeted group in most cities.