Asian-Americans alarmed by spate of hate crimes

(CNN) - Asian American and Pacific Islander activists are raising the alarm over a frightening string of hate crimes, which seem to be on the rise since the pandemic began.

Turning 84 was a milestone for Vichar Ratanapakdee and his family.

The San Francisco grandfather had just received the vaccine and stayed healthy through the pandemic, walking for an hour in his neighborhood every morning.

On his walk, an unprovoked attacker ran across the street and assaulted him.

“The officer answered the phone and then he told us like, they found him, got assaulted,” said Monthanus Ratanapakdee, the victim’s daughter. “He got an injury very bad about his brain, bleeding. And he never woke up again. I never I saw him again.”

A 19-year-old suspect is charged with murder and elder abuse, but Ratanapakdee’s family calls it something else.

“This wasn’t driven by economics. This was driven by hate,” said Eric Lawson, the victim’s son-in-law.

Ratanapakdee’s death is part of a surge in reported attacks against Asian Americans during the pandemic.

In Oakland, a man walked up behind a 91-year-old man and threw him to the ground, one of more than 20 assaults and robberies.

In Portland, more than a dozen Asian-owned businesses in recent weeks have been vandalized.

Racist incidents are not new, especially during COVID-19.

In New York, a man sprayed Febreeze at an Asian American on the subway, blaming him for the pandemic.

A coalition has tracked 2,800 anti-Asian hate incidents between March and December of last year, like one at a California restaurant, in which a man invoked former President Donald Trump.

Trump called the novel coronavirus “China virus. ... They call it the kung flu.”

His words have lasting impact, said professor Russell Jeung, who tracked those 2,800 hate incidents through Stop AAPI Hate because no governmental agency would.

“We needed to document the racism directed towards Asians because mainstream society doesn’t believe that we face racism. And we need us to document what was happening and we needed to identify the trends,” Jeung said.

It’s necessary to identify and change them, said Compassion in Oakland, a group of Bay Area volunteers offering escorts for the elderly and offering a bridge to those who may not even know how to talk to police.

“You want to take that, that rage and it’s like, let’s do something. What can I do? And this is what we’re doing,” volunteer Derek Ko said.

Vichar Ratanapakdee’s daughter spent the last year ignoring what people said to her: “You bring the COVID, screaming, spit on us, but we just walk away.”

She won’t do that anymore because of what happened her father.

“He got to be proud about, we protect a lot on the another people in this city or the whole country,” Monthanus Ratanapakdee said.

Last month, President Joe Biden signed an executive memorandum that admits “inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric” has placed Asian American and Pacific islander communities “at risk.”

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