New York City’s mayor Bill de Blasio was surrounded and heckled on Friday night during a vigil held to mourn the victims of the Georgia massage parlor shootings.
The vigil was being held at Union Square on 14th Street in Manhattan as the crowd gathered to demand an end to hate crimes after a lone gunman killed six Asian women and two others in Atlanta on Tuesday night.
Candles were lit and signs were held that read ‘Stop Killing Us’ and ‘Stop Asian Hate’.
Flowers were laid in front of makeshift memorials, but just as politicians and advocates including Chuck Schumer and Andrew Yang began to address protesters, suddenly anger turned towards the mayor.
It wasn’t exactly clear what people in attendance were demanding of de Blasio, who has spoken out against anti-Asian sentiment.
‘This is a horrifying moment for Asian Americans,’ de Blasio said at the vigil. ‘We need everyone to report everything they see so that we can evaluate it and act on it and stop the perpetrator.’
The NYPD has already established an Asian Hate Crimes Task Force, which is commanded by an Asian officer and with several officers in the unit speaking a combined nine different languages all in an effort to solve crimes against individuals of Asian descent in New York City.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks to people as they attend a peace vigil to mourn the victims of anti-Asian hate crimes in New York City on Friday night
De Blasio was heckled on Friday night by protesters at a New York vigil
Melanie Bolanos, 9, holds a sign to protest hate crimes committed against Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities ahead of a car caravan in Koreatown in Los Angeles
Asian American Foundation holds a vigil at Union Square for the victims of Atlanta shooting spree that killed eight, including six women of Asian descent
Jumaane Williams, NYC public advocate speaks at the vigil held by Asian American Foundation
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer speaks at the vigil held by Asian American Foundation
NYC Mayoral Candidate Andrew Yang is pictured at the vigil held by Asian American Foundation
Asian communities in the U.S. have been shaken by recent racist attacks and a series of shootings at spas in the Atlanta area that left eight people dead, including six Asian women
American political activist Linda Sarsour spoke at Friday night’s vigil
‘What are you going to do about it?’ people yelled at de Blasio on footage posted to social media.
The mayor was surrounded by around a dozen people as his motorcade sped away from the event.
On Thursday, the city’s mayor had urged anyone who experiences racism to report it to the police, even if it does not rise to the level of a crime that can be prosecuted.
De Blasio was asked on Thursday why so few hate crimes charges were successfully prosecuted, and what could be done to protect the city’s ethnic minorities.
Last year there were 259 anti-Asian incidents in New York reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a group working with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders – an eight-fold increase on 2019.
‘If we get more reporting it will help us to find and stop this,’ said de Blasio.
‘Even if something is not a criminal case, a perpetrator being confronted by the city, whether it’s NYPD or another agency, and being told that what they’ve done was very hurtful to another person and could, if ever repeated, lead to criminal charges — that’s another important piece of the puzzle. That’s why we need these reports.’
De Blasio emphasized that it was essential that victims come forward, because it could nip problems in the bud.
‘I think it’s a reality we have to overcome, that some people experience something horrible and don’t know where to turn, or aren’t sure if they should report it,’ he said.
‘My message to all New Yorkers is please report what you see.’
New York City’s population is currently 13.95 per cent Asian American
Senator Chuck Schummer is pictured speaking a Friday night’s vigil
Their deaths have sparked conversation nationwide about the growing rate of violence towards Asians in the U.S., as well as misogynist and racist attitudes toward Asian women
Tuesday attacks in Georgia have caused especially profound despair for Asian Americans already facing harassment in the pandemic, and especially Asian-American women
The wife of NYC Mayoral Candidate Andrew Yang at Friday night’s vigil
Several hundred people attended the vigil in Union Square
Many New Yorkers who turned out for a peace vigil Friday in Union Square to honor the victims and denounce anti-Asian hate.
Candles were lit to remember the victims of Tuesday’s shootings
The Asian American Federation hosted the event, which a number of elected officials
Organizers said the goal was to grieve as a community — a majority of the victims were of Asian descent
Hundreds of New Yorkers of every color, creed, persuasion, stood shoulder to shoulder in Union Square Friday evening to decry the hate, the violence, the objectification, and racism, aimed at Asian-New Yorkers and Asian Americans
Those gathered took time to pray for the victims are their families
Mourners said the shootings in Georgia point to much larger issues about racism and policing
‘This week has been so hard and upsetting,’ said Jayne Ng, 25, to the New York Post. ‘So I appreciate that there were leaders from the Muslim, Hispanic and Black communities here tonight to speak up and stand by the Asian American community. They came out to say they’re here for us.’
‘As an Asian woman I have experienced harassment on the subway. I have been followed on the street by strangers. I have had people shouting at me. I always feel unsafe. I experience harassment. It’s a sad part about being an Asian woman. Hopefully these tragic events can raise more awareness.’
The NYPD revealed that it had recorded has recorded a 1300 percent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes during the coronavirus pandemic.
The force has also stepped up patrols in Asian neighborhoods following the massage parlor murders.
Eunchong Kim, 26, holds a candle during a vigil at a makeshift memorial outside the Gold Spa following the deadly shootings in Atlanta, Georgia
Members of the Atlanta Korean American Committee Against Asian Hate Crime hold a remembrance vigil at the scene of two of the massage parlor shootings in Atlanta, Georgia
People hold signs after holding a vigil at a makeshift memorial outside the Gold Spa
Members of the Atlanta Korean American Committee Against Asian Hate Crime lay flowers at the scene of the shootins
Community members and faith leaders gather for a ‘Stop Asian Hate’ vigil in honor of victims of the Atlanta-area spa shootings at Community Center Park in Garden Grove in Los Angeles
The Asian American community, already on edge after reports of increases in hate incidents across the country, was further rattled by the Atlanta shootings. Garden Grove in LA is pictured
The vigils were a show of love, for those lives lost and a place to express anger and outrage
People hold signs at a protest to denounce hate against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, following the deadly shootings at Young’s Asian Massage in Georgia, in Koreatown in Los Angeles
The vigils are the culmination of a year when Asian-Americans have felt blamed for the pandemic and repeatedly targeted
Steve Kong, 35, holds a sign at a protest to denounce hate against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities
Outside of New York, from Phoenix to Philadelphia, Asian American organizations have held events aimed at showing unity.
Asian Americans United, the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance and several other partner groups held a vigil in Philadelphia’s Chinatown neighborhood.
‘After the month and year we had, we knew our folks needed the time to come together safely just to grieve and heal and mourn and speak to what´s happening,’ said Mohan Seshadri, Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance co-executive director.
As much despair as Asian Americans feel, Seshadri said, the shootings also mark a flashpoint.
‘Our folks are pissed off and ready to fight,’ Seshadri said. ‘The way we get through this is together by organizing our people and feeling solidarity.’
Soon Sean Lee holds a sign at a protest to denounce hate against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities
A member of the Korean American Federation of L.A. standing next a sign protests hate crimes committed against Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities ahead of a car caravan in Koreatown
Melanie Bolanos, 9, writes messages on a car window to protest hate crimes committed against Asian-Americans
People protest hate crimes committed against Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities ahead of a car caravan in Koreatown in Los Angeles, California
Arizona Asian Chamber of Commerce CEO Vicente Reid is planning a vigil next week in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, which has a high concentration of Asian American-owned shops and restaurants. He thinks the slayings have galvanized the local community to go beyond vigils.
‘I think there is this whole outlet of this younger generation who’s passionate and has the energy. They just need someone to step up and lead them,’ Reid said.
For the past several weeks, Asian Americans have questioned how to deal with a recent wave of assaults – many on the elderly – that have coincided with the pandemic.
The virus was first identified in China, and former President Donald Trump and others have used racial terms to describe it.
LThe Los Angeles Lakers display a “Stop Asian Hate” banner before the game against the Charlotte Hornets
Kwang Song (L), originally from Korea, protests hate crimes on Los Angeles, California. She immigrated to the United States 46 years ago
State Assembly member Miguel Santiago, 53rd District, right, participates in a caravan rally to denounce hate against the Asian Americans
Members of the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles drive with signs reading: “#Stop Asian Hate,” in a caravan around Koreatown in LA
Numerous Asian American organizations say Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened people to express anti-Asian or anti-immigrant views.
Nearly 3,800 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and its partner groups, since March 2020.
Nationally, women reported hate crimes 2.3 times more than men.
The anti-hate group said 10% of propaganda descriptions in its inventory contained negative references to immigration, multiculturalism or diversity. The 522 physical flyers, stickers or banners included the use of words such as ‘invasion, deport, disease, illegal, infection and virus,’ the ADL said.
There were also seven propaganda incidents with direct anti-China references to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Asian Americans are thankfully getting support from many non-Asian allies, Mahmood said.
‘The path forward for us is really just standing together and making sure we don´t let these types of tragedies divide our communities.’
Asian Americans and New Yorkers are gathered for a peace vigil for Atlanta Spa shooting victims of Asian hate at Union Square in New York City
People attend a peace vigil to mourn the victims of anti-Asian hate crimes in New York City, New York