ST. PAUL, Minn. (May 18, 2020) — A Monday news release from the State Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans provides commentary on the violent assault on a Hmong American woman earlier this month at a light rail transit station in St. Paul.
The assault of the elderly women by three men occurred at the University Avenue LRT line at the Dale Street stop in St. Paul. The attack was captured by transit security cameras and by video taken by the perpetrators, who then posted it on social media. The apparent laughter of the perpetrators is chilling, the announcement said.
“In the video, a young man is seen assaulting an unsuspecting and defenseless Asian American woman,” said Sia Her, executive director of the council. “The victim never reported her attack to law enforcement, resulting in several days of investigation before the victim’s identity and other key elements of the assault could be verified.”
The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office on May 11 charged the three teenagers with aiding and abetting, both gross misdemeanor harassment offenses with intent to injure, and fifth degree misdemeanor assault, she said. While charges have been brought against the suspects, the investigation into this case is ongoing.
“The timing and context for such an attack is not lost on our council,” Her said.
The immediate reaction from local and national audiences to the recording of the attack was one of outrage and horror, according to the announcement. Violence like this is never acceptable and the harm of this attack extended beyond a single incident, as its impact was felt across the entire Asian Pacific community in Minnesota.
The video garnered the attention of not just law enforcement and local news, but also that the council, a state agency charged with the responsibility of advising and advocating on behalf of Asian Pacific Minnesotans. More troubling is that many in our community saw themselves reflected in the fear and vulnerability of the victim as they watched the video.
Regardless of the motivation of the perpetrators, we at the council are all too intimately aware of the timing and the context for such a crime, and as a result, the anxiety Asian Pacific Americans now face as they go about their daily lives. The era of COVID-19 has been a unique experience for our Asian Pacific American community, here in Minnesota and across the nation. Beginning in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., we saw a growing anti-Chinese sentiment and then a broader anti-Asian sentiment.
This misdirected animosity resulted in hundreds of acts of discrimination, harassment, and physical assaults committed against Asian Pacific Americans of multiple ethnic backgrounds. The council has heard from community members about their anxiety that turned into fear as stories of targeted harassment and hate crimes were shared through word of mouth, and on social and mainstream media.
The assault that occurred at the light rail transit station has created more anxiety, more fear, and more distrust throughout our community in Minnesota.
At the council, we advise and advocate on behalf of our community in full recognition of both America’s triumphs and its ongoing challenges. In addressing some of these challenges, we recognize our nation’s history and perpetuation of racism and discrimination against Americans of color.
Given our statutory charge, we also recognize the need to address the institutional and political portrayal of Asian Pacific Americans as the model minority, which perpetuates the invisibility of our community’s experiences. Justice cannot be served for Asian Pacific Americans until our injustices are shared, heard, and visible in the conversation about bias and discrimination in America.
Our efforts speak to our ongoing commitment to working across racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and partisan lines to achieve equity. We will continue to work to unite all Minnesotans. To that end, we reaffirm that lifting up the experiences of our Asian Pacific community, including our reality during COVID-19, does not equate to stifling the experiences of other communities. On the matter of violence against Asian Pacific Americans, we demand justice for our community, while upholding the pursuit of justice for all communities of color.
We accept that part of the responsibility lies within our own community to report events to law enforcement and to continue to share our experiences of bias, discrimination, harassment, and hate. For each visible victim we see on our social media feeds, there are many more who remain silent, and thus invisible, because they do not wish to draw negative attention to themselves or their community. They may feel powerless or fear that their own experiences will either be diminished or discredited.
Justice takes into account the attitude of the public and the reports of hate and violence against Asian Pacific Americans must be given credence and investigated to the fullest legal extent, where perpetrators of such crimes face due legal consequences. We as a collective, then, must recognize the need for reporting crimes perpetrated against Asian Pacific Americans. Fear of social stigma within our community should not force us to live in fear of violence.
Our council has heard time and time again that when it comes to reporting crimes of violence, Asian Pacific Minnesotans continue to underreport. We call on members of our community to seek help from law enforcement if they are physically or verbally threatened or harmed.
We call on members of our community to report discrimination to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights’ Discrimination Helpline at 1-833-454~0148. We understand the barriers of historical trauma to reporting these incidents, but we also recognize that if we are to effectively respond as a society to these problems, as individuals we need to step up and tell our stories.
We at the council will continue to serve as a resource for state government, law enforcement, and most importantly Asian Pacific Minnesotans. We condemn acts of violence and discrimination against Asian Pacific communities and remain committed to increasing the visibility of hate-motivated crimes and discrimination against these communities.