Coronavirus hate attack: Woman in face mask allegedly assaulted by man who calls her 'diseased'

The New York City Police Department's task force on hate crimes is seeking the public's help in identifying the man seen in a video apparently punching and kicking the woman.
A man attacks a woman wearing a face mask in the New York City subway.
A man attacks a woman who was wearing a face mask in the New York City subway.via NYPD Hate Crimes

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By David K. Li

A woman wearing a face mask was allegedly assaulted and called "diseased" in an incident in a New York City subway that was apparently sparked by bias over the coronavirus.

The New York City Police Department's hate crimes unit is seeking the public's help in identifying the man who appears to be kicking and punching the woman in a video posted on Twitter.

"The NYPD and the Hate Crimes Task Force encourage the victim to report this incident to the police for a full investigation," the task force said in its retweet of a post with the video, captioned, "Chinese woman gets attacked for wearing a mask in nyc."

The woman, wearing a parka and a yellow mask or scarf covering her mouth, appears to be trying to leave the station when the man physically attacks her.

"Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo. yo, yo calm down!" a voice can be heard saying as the man punches and kicks the woman.

Another Twitter user, with the handle @x_ginko, responded to the original tweet by @TonyySays, claiming to have seen the incident.

"She was telling people to move to the right and letting them know she was there. I walked away from her because I wasn't bothered by it," @x-ginko wrote.

"When I exited the turnstiles, I saw that a man was talking to her. At [this] point, I was still wearing my headphones, so I couldn't hear what he was saying. However, when I took off my headphones, I clearly heard the words 'diseased b----.' I also heard her asking him to go away."

An NYPD spokesman told NBC News on Wednesday that it's not clear exactly when or where the attack happened.

NBC News could not immediately reach either one of the two Twitter users Wednesday regarding their accounts of the incident.

Marian Guerra, deputy chief of staff for City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, whose district includes the Chinatown neighborhood, said her office learned of the attack Monday night and believe it happened at the Grand Street station in Chinatown.

Guerra said some of their constituents fear they are being unfairly viewed as carriers of the virus, although the outbreak's epicenter is on the other side of the globe in Wuhan, China. No one in New York City has yet tested positive for the virus.

"We've seen a lot of anxieties from folks in the community," Guerra said, referring to Chinatown residents.

The MTA said it alerted police Monday when the footage first showed up on social media.

“The MTA has no tolerance for bias or hate-based attacks," according to an MTA statement. "We recently launched an anti-hate campaign to encourage victims and witnesses to report these crimes, and to encourage tolerance that should minimize such unacceptable conduct in the first place.”

Rima Abdelkader contributed.