Elected officials across Hudson County have condemned the violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, calling for an end to the racism and discrimination they face.
This comes after eight people were shot to death at three massage parlors in the Atlanta Ga. area on Tuesday, March 16. Six of the victims were Asian women.
The shooting in Georgia is just one of many incidents thought to have targeted members of the AAPI community.
Since last March, the advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate has received 3,795 complaints of hate incidents targeting Asian Americans nationwide. 11 percent of these complaints involved physical assaults and 68 percent were verbal harassment.
Asian Americans have reported being targeted at least 503 times in January and February of this year alone.
In New Jersey specifically, Stop AAPI Hate reported nearly 50 incidents related to the COVID-19 pandemic of Asian American and Pacific Islander discrimination between March and December of last year.
Although it has not been confirmed by law enforcement, the similarity of the victims of the Atlanta shootings raise fears that it may have been a racially-motivated hate crime.
For Jersey City At-large Councilman Rolando Lavarro, the first person of Filipino descent elected to the council, it’s obvious.
“In aftermath of the Atlanta shootings, we heard the initial public statement from law enforcement that suggested that race wasn’t a motive in the killings but rather that sexual addiction was… When I first heard the Atlanta spokesman cite sexual addiction I literally screamed at the TV and said ‘and so what.’ The objectification of Asian women, Asian fetishes – that is Asian motivated violence,” said Lavarro. “It was so apparent to me that a hate crime shouldn’t be ruled out…”
Lavarro and Ward E Councilman James Solomon sponsored a resolution condemning and combating racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that was unanimously adopted by the council on March 24.
“My take away from the Atlanta tragedy is that it’s not enough to sympathize with victims. It’s not enough to simply express outrage and condemn such actions.,” said Lavarro. “We need to take these crimes seriously by investigating them and prosecuting them aggressively and leaders of all levels of government — including all the way up to the Department of Justice — need to demand greater investigative accountability and prosecution by law enforcement.”
He called on the city to follow New York City’s lead and create a task force dedicated to investigating hate crimes.
Jersey City leaders weren’t the only ones to condemn discrimination and racism against the AAPI community in Hudson County.
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla said racism has no place in society.
“Since the pandemic’s onset over a year ago, we have witnessed increased violence against Asian American Pacific Islanders,” said Bhalla. “I’m heartbroken at the senseless acts of violence that sadly took the lives of six Asian American women in Georgia. These horrific acts come at a time when Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been subject to racism, discrimination, and xenophobia that has absolutely no place in our society.”
Since the start of the year, over a dozen Asian American’s have been assaulted in New York City
“Let me be clear: we in Hoboken condemn these abhorrent events and racism in all forms,” said Bhalla. “Not only must we as citizens and leaders openly condemn these actions, but also reaffirm our commitment to anti-racism, and to truly acknowledge the enormous pain and suffering that Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and other historically marginalized communities experience daily.”
He encouraged residents to be mindful of the neighbors and to support each other.
“In Hoboken, a fair and welcoming city, we will continue to stand up for, protect and celebrate our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and small businesses,” said Bhalla. “It is my sincere hope that cities across the country will join our Mile Square, and the many other cities that have stood firmly against bigotry and discrimination, of any kind.”
New Jersey Assembly members also introduced a resolution condemning the attacks and recognizing the contributions made to the state and country by those from the AAPI community.
The resolution, sponsored by Assembly members Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson), Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), and Sterley Stanley (D-Middlesex), recognizes the AAPI community as a fundamental and significant community in New Jersey, and condemns attacks against these communities as intolerable.
“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been unfairly blamed for the pandemic since the very beginning, and the community has suffered a rise in discrimination and violent attacks ever since,” said Chiaravalloti. “Here is when we say ‘no more, we don’t stand for this.”
“Racism and xenophobia have been an unfortunate recurring part of the Asian American immigrant experience since we first arrived in this country,” said Mukherji, who was the second Asian American to be elected to the New Jersey Legislature. “That same hatred, and the pain felt by the hated, is also central to the lived experiences of our Asian American neighbors today.
“This week’s despicable events in Atlanta, and over the past year, serve to remind us that we must actively work to fight hate and ignorance. It’s a start to part ways with a commander-in-chief that would refer to this disease as the ‘Kung Flu’ or the ‘China Virus.’ It is my hope this resolution, and the outpouring of empathy and support from the beautifully diverse people of New Jersey for our AAPI neighbors will be a call to action for all of us.”