As attacks against Asian Americans spike, advocates call for action to protect communities

Hundreds of Chinatown residents in San Francisco take to the streets to protest against racism, on February 29, 2020.

(CNN)A string of recent attacks against Asian Americans has communities and advocates on high alert, especially as many in the United States gather this weekend to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

An 84-year-old man from Thailand died in late January after being attacked on his morning walk in San Francisco. Days later, a 91-year-old Asian man was violently shoved to the ground in Oakland's Chinatown. Last week, a 64-year-old woman was robbed outside a Vietnamese market in San Jose, California. And a 61-year-old Filipino man was slashed in the face last week on the New York City subway.
There isn't evidence to prove that these incidents were only motivated by anti-Asian bigotry.
      But authorities and advocates for the Asian community say that hate and violence against Asians has been brewing for several months -- and needs to be addressed.
        "There's something going on across the nation that really sadly reminds us of some of our past experiences as a community," said Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and a co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate.
          Kulkarni likened the rise of hate against Asian Americans since the pandemic began to the 19th century era of "yellow peril," during which racist laws as well as stereotypes of East Asian immigrants as a threat to society proliferated in the US.
          "It's really the newest version of anti-Asian hate and racism," she said.

          Reports of hate have risen with the pandemic

          Rights groups don't know what's fueling the latest spike in violent incidents against Asian Americans. But they have seen a pattern of targeted hate since the coronavirus pandemic began.
          Stop AAPI Hate began collecting reports of racism and discrimination against Asian Americans on March 19 last year, after seeing instances of xenophobia as the virus started spreading in the US.
          From then through the end of 2020, the organization received more than 2,800 firsthand reports of anti-Asian hate across 47 states and Washington, DC, according to data released this week.
          The majority of those incidents -- about 71% -- were cases of verbal harassment, while shunning or avoidance made up about 21%. About 9% of the incidents involved physical assaults, and 6% included being purposely coughed or spit on, according to a Stop AAPI Hate news release.
          The problem has been especially evident in areas with large Asian American populations in California and New York, Kulkarni said.
          A report published Wednesday by the Asian American Bar Association of New York noted that from January 1 to November 1, 2020, the New York Police Department saw an eight-fold increase in reported anti-Asian hate crimes compared to the same period in 2019.
          "Once [the coronavirus] came to New York City, which was the epicenter of the national crisis and the first one to go through all of this, we were the canary in the coal mine of the future pain and suffering that our entire nation would soon and later come to experience," New York Rep. Grace Meng said at a Thursday news conference focused on the findings.
          Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC has observed a similar phenomenon.