Even as calls to “Stop Asian Hate” reverberated across the country, multiple members of the Asian community were attacked over the weekend.
According to the New York Times, at least five people of Asian descent were assaulted in Manhattan between Friday and Sunday, the day thousands rallied in the city’s streets to decry the Atlanta shootings and protest the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic.
Two of the victims were elderly men, ages 68 and 66, who were punched in the head and face respectively: The 68-year-old man suffered injuries so severe he is now reportedly in critical condition. A woman on the Lower East Side was hit in the face with a metal pipe, and another woman was thrown to the ground.
And the fifth victim, a 37-year-old woman named Katie Hou, was repeatedly punched in the face while walking to a nearby anti-hate protest with her daughter on Sunday. Gothamist reports that the suspect began attacking Hou after he stomped on the protest sign she was carrying. He then immediately fled the scene, descending into a nearby subway station.
“You could see she was just numb,” a witness to the incident, East Village resident Rita Chen, told Gothamist of Hou’s daughter, who had seen the entire thing. “At one point, a woman approached her and gave her a cookie. As soon she saw her mom being put on the gurney, that’s when she started crying. It was heartbreaking.”
The attack left Hou with cuts and bruises on her lip as well as a sprained ankle.
“People need to be vigilant about their safety, but at the same time, we need to do something to stop this from happening again,” Hou later told the Times.
New York City police say these five assaults are currently being investigated as possible hate crimes. That they occurred amid such vehement rallying cries to end such violence is upsetting, but ultimately unsurprising. As Esther Wang wrote for this blog last week, it is a mistake to think of the recent surge in anti-Asian hate as the mere product of the racist rhetoric that has sprung up around the coronavirus. What some people are only just noticing for the first time has gone on for decades: The Atlanta shootings that spurred these recent demonstrations, Wang wrote, “can’t be separated from a long history of immigrant exclusion, from wars abroad, from global sex tourism.”
The fact that Hou was attacked on her way to a demonstration to protest the exact violence she experienced recalls a recent incident in the U.K., when a woman coming from a Sarah Everard vigil was flashed by a man on her way home. These are the sorts of incidents that occur when violence is so prevalent, it can occasionally produce a twisted form of irony.