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Victim, advocate, politicians urge B.C. bystanders to intervene when witnessing anti-Asian attacks

Last Updated May 25, 2020 at 12:22 pm PST


Police addressed the disturbing increase in reports of anti-Asian crimes at a news conference Friday

Witnesses are being asked to intervene by speaking up, seeing to the safety of victims

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Trixie Ling is one of 29 people who have reported anti-Asian attacks to the Vancouver Police Department since the beginning of 2020.

Police addressed the disturbing increase in reports of these crimes at a news conference Friday. 

Ling tells CityNews she was walking along Great Northern Way on the afternoon of May 9 when a white man started shouting “racist and sexual comments” at her.

She ignored the slurs, and kept walking.

“Then he just spat on my face,” she says. “It was very shocking.”

She says a cyclist saw the incident unfold — but didn’t intervene.

“You wish someone would, if they witnessed something, they would speak up. But at the same time, I feel for him that he was scared and did not want to confront this younger white man because we don’t know what would have happened.”

She filed a police report the night it happened but is sharing her experience because she would like to see more witnesses to racism get involved.

“If you’re a bystander, and you see something and walk away, it’s really discrediting some of the experience people have,” she says.

On the other hand, she says intervening is a way to demonstrate to the victim, “This is real, I see you. I’m with you.”

“We all have a part to play,” she said.

RELATED: ‘If you see something, speak out’: Vancouver mayor decries racially-motivated crimes

Daniel Louie, a community organizer says it’s a shared social responsibility to support victims by speaking up, and seeing to their safety.

“Silence is saying ‘Oh, this is okay,'” he explains. “My first suggestion always is to try to get away from the situation, with the victim. Leave the situation and get to a safe place and then call 911.”

On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan made a similar plea.

“It’s just no longer acceptable and I’m grateful to see citizens standing up to racism when they see it. We need to do that with increasing regularity,” he said.

In addition to violence against people, the VPD has noted an increase in “hateful graffiti” on landmarks associated with Chinese culture, such as the defacing of the two lions at the gates to Chinatown earlier this week.

Because hate crimes are often under-reported, police fear there are more incidents that have taken place than they’re aware of.

A coalition of community groups has created an online reporting tool so they can collect information, which they promise to keep confidential, about these incidents from people who decide not to report to the police.

“This initiative focuses on the experiences of people in the Asian diaspora, in response to growing anti-Asian sentiment resulting from COVID-19,” the website says.

“Data will be used to develop strategies, design interventions, raise awareness, advocate for policies, and improve outcomes for our communities.”

Vancouver councillor concerned 

Coun. Pete Fry is concerned that many in the city are living in fear.

He tells NEWS 1130 the state of mental health among people in Vancouver has been discussed by the City’s pandemic response committee.

“There’s a lot of these issues that are starting to unfold, and it’s an anxious situation. People are dealing with all sorts of factors, job loss, economic uncertainty. We’ve got upticks in domestic violence, people that are feeling either socially isolated, or they have too much going on at home and they’re trying to manage that.” Fry said.

He thinks all levels of government have a responsibility to mitigate some of those fears through steady leadership.

He’s hopeful there’s a way to be able to calm those anxieties, perhaps through community events.

“Does it look like we need to have some kind of town halls or some kind of ‘real talk’ conversations about intolerance, violence and mental health? I think that it’s probably something we should explore moving forward,” Fry adds.

“I do worry about some of the mental health of our city as a whole and I think it’s a conversation we should probably have sooner than later.”

With files from Lisa Steacy