Nearly 2,000 New Yorkers have signed up to voluntarily escort Asian Americans to their destination amid hate crimes

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Demonstrators march during a protest against Asian hate on Times Square in New York, the United States, March 20, 2021.
  • About 1,800 New Yorkers are volunteering with SafeWalks to escort Asian Americans from a public area.
  • The volunteers signed up in response to a surge in anti-Asian violence across both New York and the US.
  • Most recently, a 65-year-old Asian woman on Monday was assaulted in broad daylight on a New York City sidewalk.
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More than 1,800 New Yorkers have signed up to walk Asian Americans from any public area to their destination in an effort to combat and prevent anti-Asian violence and hate crimes.

Volunteers - many of whom speak Mandarin or Cantonese - are patrolling New York City neighborhoods like Chinatown and offering escorting services to anyone who asks for their help, Pix11 News reported.

The initiative is part of SafeWalks NYC, started in January after a string of attacks on women in the subway.

Volunteers, Pix11 News reports, give out flyers and wear bright safety belts. Each shift lasts two hours. A fundraiser to support the SafeWalks initiative has raised about $17,000 since it was posted to GoFundMe in February.

"We need to show our humanity. We can't let people hurt our seniors, our elders," volunteer Lisa Gold told Pix11 News.

Anti-Asian violence has surged

In recent weeks, there have been numerous anti-Asian attacks in New York City.

Just on Monday, a 65-year-old Asian woman was assaulted and yelled at on a New York City sidewalk. Her assailant, 38-year-old Brandon Elliot, kicked her to the ground and stomped on her head repeatedly while two doormen in a luxury apartment watched, security footage released by the police shows. When Elliot walked away, the doormen closed the apartment doors on her.

Nationally, recent stories related to anti-Asian violence also paint a grim picture.

Two weeks ago, police arrested a man in connection to a string of deadly shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. Six out of eight of the victims were Asian women. Each attack had taken place at three massage parlors within an hour of one another on Tuesday.

The shooter, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long from Woodstock, Georgia, suggested to police that the attacks were due to a sex addiction and were not racially motivated.

Multiple research studies have identified that the number of anti-Asian crimes and violence have spiked in the last year.

An analysis from Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, for example, found hate crimes overall decreased by 7% in 2020. That same study found that hate crimes specifically against Asian people rose by about 150%.

Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit tracking violence toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, released a report that identified nearly 3,800 instances of anti-Asian discrimination just in the past year.

And that's a very mild estimate, Stop AAPI hate said in its report.

"The number of hate incidents reported to our center represent only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur, but it does show how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination, and the types of discrimination they face," the report says.

"Not enough has been done to protect Asian Americans from heightened levels of hate, discrimination and violence. Concrete action must be taken now," a press release from Stop AAPI Hate said. "Anything else is unacceptable."

Pedestrians in New York who want to request a safe escort or to volunteer can do so on the SafeWalks website, by emailing [email protected], or by DMing the @SafeWalksNYC handle on Instagram.

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