By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to expand efforts to combat the disturbing rise, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, of anti-Asian violence, hatred and discrimination.
Supervisor Hilda Solis authored the motion. which gives additional resources to the L.A. County Human Relations Commission program called L.A. vs. Hate, in particular the Rapid Response Network, for the remainder of the current fiscal year.
“The alarming surge in hate incidents, particularly aimed at our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, demonstrates the urgent need to expand the County’s anti-hate program,” said Solis, who represents large portions of the San Gabriel Valley, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and Historic Filipinotown.
In Los Angeles County, attacks have ranged from verbal insults to physical violence, with more than 800 incidents reported through the 211 hotline alone. Stop AAPI Hate has reported more than 2,800 incidents nationwide from March to December 2020.
In a press conference on Monday, Robin Toma, Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations executive director, said that the city of L.A., like other metropolitan areas across the U.S., has seen a recent doubling in hate crimes against Asian Americans. He said that too often, incidents of bias and hate go unreported and victims feel alone.
The L.A. vs. Hate website gathers data and also offers support and resources to victims.
“We have spent so many years simply accepting this as something we have to deal with on our own. It wasn’t something the government was tracking. There wasn’t a whole network of organizations supporting us,” Toma said.
“We need to hear from people experiencing hate and hostility, even if it doesn’t constitute a crime.”
Shelley Shen, a resident of West Covina, described harassment that she has experienced from a family in her neighborhood. The incidents included verbal abuse, threats and an attack on her dog. A problem she pointed to is a lack of police response to such incidents.
According to a story on Spectrum News, other residents in the same condo community ended up forming a neighborhood watch to protect themselves after they suffered abuse from the family, and failed to get an adequate response from the Homeowners Association or the police.
“It is so important for law enforcement to respond in a positive manner. That has not been our experience,” Shen said. “The L.A. vs. Hate program has brought us not only help, but emotional support. We no longer feel alone.”
Hong Lee, who was harassed at a restaurant, also expressed frustration with law enforcement officers who said no crime had been committed after a man told her to “go back to Asia” and called her derogatory names when she declined to have lunch with him.
“I never felt so alone in my life. There was a lack of empathy and compassion from everybody,” Lee said.
She shared the video of her assailant on social media and other victims came forward.
“LAPD then apologized and took an incident report and then educated officers on taking a hate crime report,” Lee said.
District Attorney George Gascon pledged his support.
“I am here to tell you I am fully committed to standing with you, to ensure that those who act on hate will be held accountable,” he said.
LACCHR Commissioner Fredrick Sykes, a former sheriff’s deputy, said that while officers who didn’t witness a crime may be unable to make an arrest, victims should know they can initiate a private person’s arrest that will generate a citation.
“I stand in solidarity with the API community,” said Supervisor Holly Mitchell. “It is our collective responsibility, it is our collective fight to root out hate and hatred in our communities. Hate is real, it is dangerous, and just like COVID, hate can spread rapidly if not addressed head-on.”
Bishop Noriaki Ito described the feelings at Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple after it was vandalized on Feb. 25. He said that fortunately the perpetrator never entered the temple or damage could have been much worse. A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $85,000 to repair damage and upgrade security systems.
“The pain was felt by all our members and staff, (but) we are comforted by the support we have received from far and near,” Ito said. “Our immediate reaction to the attack was anger and hurt, but after that initial shock we had to look inward to our Buddhist teaching and show compassion to every living thing, as difficult as it may be.”
Shen urged Asian Americans to be united during this time. Since the attacks she has installed security cameras.
“To my fellow Asians, don’t think this problem will go away if we ignore it. It won’t go away. We must stand up with our neighbors and each other,” Shen said.