Pelosi, House Dems call for action on hate incidents targeting Asian Americans

Rebecca Shabad
Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks at a weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on February 18, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Tasos Katopodis | Getty Images

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Asian American lawmakers and other House Democrats on Friday denounced a rise in hate incidents targeting members of the Asian community across the country and called for stronger action — both by Congress and the Biden administration.

The lawmakers called on Congress to pass legislation to provide Department of Justice grants to state and local governments to improve the reporting of hate crimes and greater support to victims, and to hold hearings on the rise in incidents. They also said they are requesting a meeting with the Justice Department to follow up on enforcement actions, including investigating hate crimes and engaging with the Asian American community.

Pelosi, D-Calif., praised her colleagues for calling attention "to something that must be stopped," adding that white supremacy is part of what has inspired the attacks and is "the biggest bucket of concern when it comes to domestic terrorism."

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said at the virtual press conference, "What started as dirty looks and verbal assaults has escalated to physical attacks and violence against innocent Asian Americans."

"These attacks are no accident," Chu added. "It's clear January 6 was not the only violence Donald Trump incited."

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The lawmakers said while the former president isn't entirely responsible for provoking attacks against members of the Asian community, he spread anti-Asian sentiment through his rhetoric over the last year about the origin of the coronavirus in China.

"Words have consequences," Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., said. "Actions by political leaders have consequences and we're seeing the consequences of the use of terms like China virus or Kung Flu in hate crime data."

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., cited statistics from a center dedicating to ending hate incidents and bigotry against members of the Asian American community because of the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate found there have been nearly 3,000 incidents of anti-Asian discrimination across the United States since March of last year, she said.

Takano added that there should be a public affairs campaign in relevant languages so that people in those communities understand the importance of documenting violent attacks and how to report them.