COVID-19: Series of anti-Asian assaults and vandalism continues in Vancouver

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      While the coronavirus pandemic has created stress and anxiety for everyone, some individuals have been resorting to acts of racist vandalism and assault against Asian individuals across North America, including in Vancouver.

      The Vancouver Police Department reported on May 1 that there has been an increase in anti-Asian hate-motivated incidents and crimes. Of the 15 hate crimes reported to police in April, 11 of them involved anti-Asian elements.

      A total of 20 anti-Asian hate crimes have been reported to police so far this year. In all of 2019, there were only 12 reported.

      “It’s disheartening to report that these types of crimes are ongoing during the pandemic,” VPD spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin stated in a news release. “Our department takes crimes with such hate attached extremely seriously. We will not tolerate this in our city.”

      Although a number of local and national antiracism efforts and campaigns have arisen to address these incidents, here is a list of the anti-Asian attacks that have taken place in Vancouver over the past two months.

      Chinese Cultural Centre vandalized

      The VPD issued a news release on May 1 stating that investigators believe a suspect walked into the courtyard of the Chinese Cultural Centre in the afternoon on April 2 and defaced four large glass windows with racist remarks about Asians.

      The centre, located in Chinatown at 50 East Pender Street, was founded in 1973 to promote cultural understanding and friendship between Chinese Canadians and other Canadians.

      The suspect is described as a white male with a thin build. He was wearing a black baseball cap with writing on the front, a black and white bandana over his nose and mouth, a black jacket, black pants, and grey running shoes at the time of the incident.

      The VPD released images of the suspect (see top photo and one below).

      Anyone with information about this suspect or the incident is asked to call the VPD investigators at 604-717-2773 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

      Vancouver police are seeking to identify this suspect in connection with the defacement of the Chinese Cultural Centre on April 2.
      Vancouver Police Department

      Assault at bus stop

      It remains unclear whether another incident that took place last month, involving an assault on an Asian person, was racially motivated or not.

      The VPD stated in a news release on May 5 that on the afternoon of April 12, a 22-year-old Asian female was at a bus stop near Granville and West Pender streets when a male suspect approached her and—without any provocation or communication between the two—punched her in the face.

      Vancouver Police Department

      The suspect, who left the scene on a transit bus, is described as a white male in his mid-20s with a medium build.

      VPD spokesperson Sgt. Aaron Roed stated at a news conference that the suspect boarded the No. 4 UBC bus with an associate, who was not involved in the assault.

      At the time of the assault, he was wearing a dark-coloured T-shirt with a deer emblem on the front; a grey, long-sleeved shirt underneath the T-shirt; and a beanie-style hat with grey and yellow stripes.

      Vancouver Police Department

      Sgt. Roed stated that the woman is recovering physically. 

      Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the VPD Major Crime Section at 604-717-2541 or Crime Stoppers. 

      Vancouver Police Department

      Park bench vandalized

      A bench at Queen Elizabeth Park dedicated to a Chinese Canadian couple was found defaced with racist remarks.

      In a May 5 article, Gladys Lam told Global News that the bench is dedicated to her father and her late mother, who voluntarily helped clean up the park by picking up garbage. She died of cancer on February 21.

      Lam made a video that was uploaded to social media to tell her story about her family, the bench, and the impact of the vandalism.

      Previous attacks

      CBC News had reported that on March 6, a stranger at a downtown grocery store told an Asian woman with a mask on to “go back to China”. 

      After that, a 92-year-old Asian man with dementia, who had wandered into a convenience store in East Vancouver, was the victim of a "racially-motivated assault" on March 13.

      The VPD reported on April 22 that while staff were helping the man, a male suspect began yelling racist remarks and comments about COVID-19 at the man before grabbing him by the arm and forcing him out of the store.

      Outside, the elderly victim fell to the ground and hit his head.

      After the VPD released images and a video of the suspect on April 22, the VPD announced on April 23 that the suspect had been identified.

      Racism surveys 

      The Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice released results on April 27 from a survey of 1,130 people in Canada’s three largest cities (315 in Vancouver, 531 in Toronto, and 284 in Montreal) that found that one in five respondents don’t think it is safe to sit next to an Asian person a bus if they don’t have a mask (21 percent) while one-quarter remain uncertain if is is safe to do so (24 percent).

      The poll also revealed that 14 percent of respondents believed that all Chinese or Asian people have the coronavirus (4 percent) or are uncertain (10 percent). 

      About 13 percent, or one in eight respondents, were aware of incidents involving racial bias in their neighbourhoods.

      Meanwhile south of the border, results from a U.S. survey released on April 28 found that approximately one-third of Americans had witnessed someone blaming Asian people for the pandemic. 

      However, over half of the Americans surveyed (56 percent) view the pandemic as a natural disaster. Republicans, retirees, and those without a college education were more likely to view it as being caused by a group of people or an organization.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.