Mayor Eric Garcetti and other Los Angeles officials gathered Friday with the co-founder of the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate to address the rise in hate crimes and hate incidents against the Asian American community and to urge the public to report any instance of hate to law enforcement.
“We are seeing record violence and discrimination against Asian Pacific Islanders, primarily due to false narratives and bigoted lies surrounding COVID-19,” said Capri Maddox, executive director of the L.A. Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department. “We must all rise to support our fellow Angelenos from discrimination, bigotry and hate.”
Capri said that hate crimes against Los Angeles’ Asian American Pacific Islander community increased by 114% in 2020, according to data from the Los Angeles Police Department.
Manjusha P. Kulkarni, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, said that 360 hate incidents in Los Angeles have been reported to the nonprofit since its launch exactly one year ago, on March 19, 2020. A total of 3,800 incidents have been reported in the U.S. during the year.
“They range the gamut from verbal harassment to discrimination in the workplace and public accommodations to unfortunately physical attacks as serious as the one that took place in Atlanta on Tuesday,” Kulkarni said.
On Tuesday, a white man fatally shot eight people, including six Asian women, at three Asian-owned spas in the Atlanta area. Local law enforcement did not declare the attack a hate crime, prompting public criticism and a debate about the label.
Stop AAPI Hate was launched in response to an increase in xenophobia and bigotry against the Asian American Pacific Islander community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Garcetti noted Friday that while reported hate crimes and incidents are rising, Los Angeles, and the U.S., has a dark history of violence and discrimination against the Asian American Pacific Islander community.
“I’m footsteps away from the largest mass lynching in U.S. history … people forget, in the late 19th Century, that it was here, residents of Chinese descent were victims of the largest mass lynching in American history, literally two blocks from where City Hall is today,” he said. “It was here where we had Japanese Americans who were taken from their homes, property seized and put in internment camps like Manzanar up in Owens Valley. So I think we always want to contextualize what’s happening this year.”
Garcetti noted three ways the city is working to combat hate crimes and incidents in Los Angeles, including:
— assigning hate crime investigators to all 21 police divisions;
— working to improve tracking and reporting, and encouraging the public to report hate crimes and hate incidents; and
— developing resources with City Council and City Attorney to create a task force on AAPI hate incidents and hate crime.
Councilwoman Nithya Raman spoke about legislation that she introduced to combat street harassment, a common type of hate incident.
“Violence is the most extreme form of hate against all kinds of communities, but street harassment is all-pervasive and all kinds of people face it when they are moving around this great city,” she said.
The motion directs city departments to report on recommendations to strengthen the city’s oversight, mitigation and response to street harassment that occurs in public spaces and city-administered transit systems. It also requests the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority to report on past and upcoming efforts to curtail harassment on trains, buses and transportation stops.
Garcetti, Raman and Kulkarni, along with City Attorney Mike Feuer and Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala urged people Friday to report any hate crime or hate incident that happens to them.
“I must underscore now that even if a non-criminal act occurs, and that is what we refer to as a hate incident … it is absolutely critical that those hate incidents, even though they are non-criminal, must be reported,” Girmala said.
Hate incidents could include anything from hateful speech, epithets or something discriminatory being posted in a public place, she said.
Girmala added that reporting these incidents to the police department will help the department better provide extra attention to those areas to prevent incidents from escalating into violence or other criminal acts.
Feuer, who as the Los Angeles City Attorney prosecutes misdemeanors that occur in the city, said, “Once there is a report made of a matter of hate to LAPD, and I can’t emphasize enough how important that initial report is, that report is referred to our office … it’s analyzed and if it is appropriate, we will take action on issues that relate to hate.” Felony hate crimes are referred from LAPD to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Feuer added that his office, along with prosecuting misdemeanors, provides services to victims of crimes.
People can report a hate incident or hate crime on the Los Angeles Police Department’s website, lapdonline.org, through the county’s 211 system by calling 211 or going to 211la.org; or at stopaapihate.org.