Three teen girls were charged with hate crimes after police say they attacked a woman on a bus in New York City, made “anti-Asian” statements about her and accused her of causing the coronavirus pandemic.
The 51-year-old victim had been riding an MTA bus in the Bronx on March 28 when a group that included the three teens began harassing her. At some point, someone in the group struck the woman in the head with an umbrella.
The victim was transported to a local hospital and received stitches, police said.
The group fled the scene, but police later found three 15-year-old girls near the scene of the attack and charged them with hate crime assaults, menacing and harassment. As of Monday afternoon, authorities were still searching for a fourth female, likely another teen, NYPD Lt. Thomas Antonetti told CNN.
“Asian-Americans have been viciously targeted and subjected to violent attacks, discrimination, and intolerance during the
#COVID19 crisis,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) tweeted in response to the attack. “Racist violence is NEVER okay and will not be tolerated in NYC. This disgusting persecution must stop.”
China documented the first known case of the virus in December. Since then, the virus has reached more than 170 countries across the world. As of Monday, there were more than 1.3 million confirmed cases globally. The U.S. has reported the most cases, at over 350,000.
Asian Americans have reported a rise in hate crimes and discrimination since the start of the pandemic. The NYPD Hate Crime Task Force told CNN that it has investigated at least 11 cases in which Asian victims were targeted due to the coronavirus.
Stop AAPI Hate, an online forum for reporting discrimination, told NBC News that it had received over 650 reports of discrimination primarily against Asian Americans in the first week after its March 18 inception.
Incidents reported to the site, which was created by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and Chinese for Affirmative Action, included verbal and physical harassment. Some victims said they were coughed at or spit on. Others said Uber and Lyft drivers refused to pick them up.
John Yang, president and executive director of the civil rights group Asian Americans Advancing Justice, told NBC News that President Donald Trump’s use of the phrase “Chinese virus” to refer to the coronavirus has “fanned the flames of racism.”
“We have seen people associate the virus with Chinese people as they are assaulting them,” Yang said. “It’s outrageous for any elected official to have been dismissive when the evidence of racist attacks continues to climb. Words matter and they often hold more weight when spoken by our politicians.”
Trump said late last month that he would stop using the term.