SAN DIEGO — Members of the Asian Pacific Islander community called for an end to anti-Asian racism during a virtual forum with local police and the district attorney Wednesday.
Organizers are concerned about the rise in hate crimes. The forum was held partly in response to a February attack on an elderly Asian woman on the trolley as she was on her way home downtown.
“She doesn’t know the person and she was attacked on the trolley,” JoAnn Fields with the Asian Pacific Islander Initiative said. “What we’ve learned from the San Diego Police Department is that suspect was not charged with a hate crime. He was charged with an enhancement of elder abuse.”
The Asian Pacific Islander Initiative helped launch the first of a series of virtual forums with law enforcement and Asian Pacific Islander community leaders to address anti-Asian hate.
“We are being scapegoated,” Fields said. “The Asian community is being blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic because of the rhetoric that we’ve heard from the former president calling it the ‘Chinese virus,’ the ‘Kung Flu virus.’”
District Attorney Summer Stephan said her office investigated zero anti-Asian hate crimes in the three years before the pandemic.
“Since the start of pandemic, we were referred three hate crimes cases against our API community,” Stephan said. “We have filed three felony hate crimes cases on each one of those and we are currently pending in court.”
The forum aimed to help San Diegans understand what constitutes a hate crime and looked at whether policies should change.
“I think it’s right to be suspicious when you have a crime and the victim is of AAPI decent, to suspect that it might be a hate crime,” said Leonard Trinh, who specializes in hate crimes with the District Attorney’s Office. “But as prosecutors, we have to see what evidence we have and whether that evidence is sufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.”
San Diego County supervisors adopted a resolution Wednesday denouncing xenophobia and anti-Asian racism.