A neighborhood watch group composed of volunteers is patrolling the streets of Manhattan’s Chinatown to deter further harassment against Asian Americans amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Since February, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) has recorded more than 350 incidents of discrimination and harassment related to the coronavirus, 37% of which are anti-Asian in nature.
.@NYPDnews @NYPDDCPI says “We are aware and investigating.” pic.twitter.com/KPsgNRyOSH
— CeFaan Kim (@CeFaanKim) April 1, 2020
The growing number of such cases in the city — as well as those in the rest of the country — prompted local Karlin Chan to start a grassroots group that would aim to prevent any more similar incident, at least in their area.
Now, the “Chinatown Block Watch” has assumed responsibility not only for helping authorities patrol the streets, but also for spreading information about staying safe at this time.
“We want to let people know that we won’t tolerate this kind of behavior in Chinatown or the nearby areas,” Chan tells Bloomberg. “Chinatown Block Watch is a very simple concept of neighbors keeping an eye out for neighbors.”
So far, the group is composed of at least 20 diverse members. They are working to monitor and document movement of discrimination and harassment on the streets.
The group has been on-duty for over a month now. Chan points out that they are not replacing the police — instead, they serve as a pair of “extra eyes” on the ground for them.
“If we see something we’re gonna call and report it. We’re a visible deterrent,” he tells Bloomberg. “So it’s reassuring to the residents of the community who are in line to buy groceries. It’s reassuring to the businesses that are open.”
On May 1, a fight broke out at a seafood market in Grand St. — also in Chinatown — after two shoppers refused to wear face masks.
The incident led to four people being charged with assault: one of the customers and three Chinese workers.
Chan recalled the incident and presumed that they declined to wear masks either because they did not understand the Chinese signs, or they simply did not want to.
As a result, the Chinatown Block Watch has also been handing out flyers that remind the public about wearing masks, especially when entering stores and other business establishments.
Commission staff may be working remotely, but our Infoline remains open! If you have been a victim of harassment or discrimination, call us. Dial 212-416-0197 to file a complaint. pic.twitter.com/Kg4xRqORKb
— NYC Human Rights (@NYCCHR) May 8, 2020
This week, the NYCCHR launched a new public awareness campaign to fight discrimination and harassment related to COVID-19. A sum of $100,000 will be used to place ads in physical outlets, social media and local news to educate the public on how to report incidents for themselves or on behalf of others.
“This type of discrimination and harassment is not something that happens out of nowhere in a pandemic, this is based in deep-seated miseducation and racism,” said Commissioner Carmelyn Malalis, according to ABC News. “I know that people doubt that there is any such thing as anti-Asian discrimination, and people have said that to my face.”
Feature Image Screenshot via Bloomberg