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Spike in anti-Asian hate crimes leads to outrage, calls for action

After two Asian women were murdered in New York within a month, calls for action against anti-Asian hate crimes are echoing here in the Pacific Northwest.

SEATTLE — In New York, frustration is growing over the rise in unprovoked violence against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

In the past month, two Asian American women were murdered in what investigators describe as 'random attacks' in New York. The two attacks have underscored the staggering rise of anti-Asian violence.

Christina Lee, 35, was stabbed to death in her New York apartment Sunday night. In January, Michelle Go, 40, was pushed in front of an oncoming train in Times Square.

The motives in both cases are still under investigation.

Members of the Asian American community say a rise in violent attacks has them living in fear.

Across the country, Seattle's AAPI community has also been rocked by incidents of hate.

“It's very personal, it's very painful. Yes, their fear is warranted,” said Noriko Nasu, a Seattle area teacher. 

Last year, Nasu was jumped by a man in Seattle’s China Town district. The suspect Sean Holdip has since been charged with two counts of second-degree felony assault.

In surveillance video, Holdip appears to strike Nasu in the face with a sock filled with rocks.

“The attacker was in Chinatown because he wanted to find a target that is Asian,” said Nasu. “I avoid Chinatown now... I do have fear.”

Nasu’s attacker isn't being charged with a hate crime.

“As horrible as this attack was, we do not believe we can prove a hate crime before a jury beyond a reasonable doubt at this point with the information we have from police investigators,” wrote Casey McNerthney with the King County Prosecutor’s office in an email to the Facing Race team.

McNerthney points out, in some cases, a felony assault charge carries a harsher penalty than a hate crime conviction. 

Nationwide, reports of hate crimes against the AAPI community have skyrocketed since the pandemic began.

According to data compiled by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, reports of anti-Asian hate crimes jumped 342% from 2020 to 2021 in eight large US cities.

In King County, the number of anti-Asian hate crime cases nearly doubled at the start of the pandemic, with 40 cases reported in 2020.

That number dropped to just 21 cases last year. Yet the prosecutor's office and activists say hate crime cases continue to be severely underreported.

”We know these are undercounts. We know our community has had an explosion of these incidents and people are fearful, they're outraged, they're upset,” said Helen Zia, an author and activist. Zia points to anti-Asian rhetoric in the media as fueling the violence.

“The overriding stereotype or view of Asian Americans is that we are weak and passive. And for women, that we are vulnerable. It just makes them targets of predators,” said Zia.

Nasu says solving the problem means not only focusing on the issue of racism, but the glaring gaps in our public health system.

“I think we really need to address the need for solving homelessness and providing mental health care,” said Nasu.

Holdip, the man charged in Nasu’s assault, is currently in Western State Hospital, undergoing a competency evaluation to see if he is fit to stand trial. His next court date is scheduled for April 5th.

    

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