NEW YORK (WABC) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials spoke out Tuesday about the city's renewed effort to confront hate crimes against Asians.
"Every community suffered, but there's been a particular pain, a particular horrible challenge, faced by the Asian American community," de Blasio said. "Because on top of all the suffering from the coronavirus itself, on top of losing loved ones losing businesses, people have had to confront horrible discrimination and hatred."
The Asian Hate Crime Task Force is focusing on the entire city, but they will pay particular attention to the subways after a rash of incident in the transit system.
Eyewitness News found that the task force is unfunded and an all-volunteer force.
De Blasio said the Human Rights Commission is working and meeting with Asian community leaders this week on the next measures the city needs to take.
"If you dare to raise you hand against a member of our Asian communities, you will suffer the consequences," he said.
He was joined by leaders across the community, including U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng.
"We have already seen our members and small businesses fight the pandemic of anti-Asian hatred, and these racist attacks have been outrageous, unconscionable, disgusting, and it must end," she said. "I also want to say a special thank you to so many other communities of color who have stood with us and stood publicly against this sort of discrimination. That ally-ship is incredibly important and meaningful."
She pointed to recent crimes where a Filipino man was slashed across the face on the subway and an Asian American woman was shoved to the ground in Queens. In fact, there were five Asian American victims attacked within two days, including a 30-year-old woman who was sprayed with a liquid, possibly pepper spray, by someone in a passing vehicle who didn't say a word.
Many of the victims were elderly and vulnerable, and all of the assaults were unprovoked.
The city is launching a new resource, the site NYC.gov/StopAsianHate, to find specific ways to encourage victims to come forward or even to report a bias attack.
"We are really worried about the reality of people not feeling they could or should report a hate crime," NYPD Dep. Inspector Stewart Loo said. "We think there's more out there. We want to encourage people to come forward. We will protect their identities."
Community leaders say these are important first steps, but the fight for equality continues.
"These numbers are definitely underreported," said JoAnn Yoo, with the Asian American Federation. "We had an incident last year where a man was a victim of a hate crime, and when he finally reported, he tells us,''This is the second time this happened to me this week.'"
Asian Americans make up almost 15% of the population yet receive less than 2% of city contract dollars.
"I think the community feels invisible," JoAnn Yoo said.
Mayor de Blasio said that the presence of the task force is encouraging people to speak up about the crimes being committed.
"The most important part is the way you're engaging the community and listening and showing people that whatever they're seeing and feeling, it will be acted on," de Blasio said. "It is so important for people to speak up."
The mayor encouraged New Yorkers to go to NYC.gov/StopAsianHate and said he wants to encourage everyone on social media to show support by using the hashtag #StopAsianHate.
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