Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan responds to bias attacks

VIDEO: Mayor responds to bias attacks

SEATTLE — The Seattle Police Department’s Bias Crimes Unit is looking for the attacker who spat on a couple in downtown Seattle as they were walking by May 16.

“The suspect shoved the male victim, and slapped at his mask, knocking off his glasses,” according to Seattle police.

The assailant told the victims, who are both Asian, “it’s all your fault.”

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Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Office said the city has been fielding increasing concerns from Asian and Asian American community members about racism and xenophobia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Asian and Pacific Islander community members have reported property crime, vandalism and threats, officials said.

“It really disappointed me,” Durkan said. “We had Chinese exclusion laws. We had the Japanese internment camps. Those were mistakes we made as a city, and we can not go back to those dark places.”

In response to that concern, the mayor has launched the “Seattle Is No Place For Hate” campaign to reject and condemn racism and xenophobia. The campaign also encourages anyone who witnesses or experiences an act of bias or harassment to report it to the Seattle Office for Civil Rights bias reporting hotline.

Devin and Teresa Cabanilla understand the confusion and fear that some Asian Americans must be feeling.

They say their 8-year-old son was the target of racial discrimination as well, only by a worker at Costco.

“I knew this was going to get worse,” Devin Cabanilla said, “and it’s all happening because of the virus.”

Costco apologized to the family in January, prior to the mask requirement, after a vendor who was handing out samples in Issaquah refused to serve the child because he could have COVID-19.

“My son was wearing a mask and she said, ‘Are you from China?' I was upset and I was angry,” Teresa Cabanilla said.

The parents are worried that racially motivated incidents will continue to happen during the pandemic.

Seattle police have received six reports of bias incidents since March 10, according to the department. Police Chief Carmen Best reiterated that even racist name-calling should be reported.

The Anti-Defamation League has also received reports of multiple incidents of bias crimes in Seattle:

- March 11 - Seattle: A student at the University of Washington told reporters that he had been harassed the previous week while commuting on the light rail to school. The student said another passenger yelled at him about Chinese people bringing diseases to the United States. (Source: Crosscut)

- March 26 – Seattle: A Chinese restaurant in the Chinatown-International District of Seattle was vandalized. (Source: NBC News)

- March 30 – Yakima, Wash.: An Asian buffet restaurant was vandalized with graffiti that included an ethnic slur.

- Seattle: Patriot Front, an alt-right group, posted propaganda around Seattle’s International District targeting Asian American/Pacific Islander businesses.”

Officials believe bias crimes are being underreported due to fear.