We Want Cop-Free Communities: Against the Creation of an Asian Hate Crime Task Force by the NYPD

In response to the spike of racialized violence against Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NYPD announced in August the creation of a permanent task force to address hate crimes against Asian New Yorkers and is considering other “culture-based task forces” for the future. As members of the Asian American community in New York City, we denounce the creation of an Asian Hate Crime Task Force by the NYPD. We do not believe this task force will make us safer, but instead put our communities (especially the most vulnerable) at greater risk.

We do not support any initiative that expands the power of police nor do we believe in carceral responses to address racist violence.

The city has no right to scapegoat our communities. NYPD and other council members who voted against defunding police accuse Asians of not cooperating with the police, but the reality is, survivors of anti-Asian harassment do not cooperate with police because they are afraid of police. Our communities stand to face greater harm because of police.

The NYPD has a long history of perpetrating violence within Asian communities, including the murder of 16-year old Yong Xin Huang in 1995 and attack on 84-year old Kang Wong in 2014. In the mid-1990s during an escalating period of anti-immigrant violence, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities documented 71 incidents of anti-Asian violence in New York City, with almost half of all cases involving law enforcement as the primary perpetrators of violence.

South Asian and Muslim communities continue to experience ongoing racial and religious profiling and surveillance by police. Police have also continued to harass Asian immigrant workers, including street vendors, massage parlor workers, delivery workers, and taxi drivers, through stops, raids, and fines. They have targeted Asian sex workers and asylum-seekers. The NYPD works closely with ICE to detain and deport our communities. Additionally, real estate developers have worked with NYPD to protect private property and raise property value under the guise of “safe communities” facilitating the eviction of people from their homes. We have also seen the connection between policing and gentrification through how the installation of new surveillance technologies on older buildings have created loopholes for landlords to raise rent and displace low-income tenants.

In all these ways and more, the police and prison industrial complex hurt our communities. “Culturally specific” police reforms will not help our communities.

Despite historically massive policing budgets and endless task forces, these reforms have never stopped anti-Asian racism from happening in the first place. We question the city’s decision to supply more funds towards policing of already criminalized communities, rather than the provision of language services and free cultural competency training for business-owners.

We also oppose the uses of hate crime legislation to further expand systems of criminalization. Measures against hate crimes have been used to increase the power of the carceral system, responding to violence through more violence, including harsher sentencing, mandatory minimums, and the death penalty. In 2009, the Obama administration tethered the expansion of hate crime legislation (to include gender, sexuality, and disability) with the funding of U.S. militarization by attaching the bill to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010. This inextricably links national investments in ‘tolerance’ to the perpetuation of the military industrial complex, eliding the ways the military reproduces and perpetuates violence under the guise of freedom and equality. Further, “tough on crime” policies are often used against communities already marginalized. They obscure the systemic violence of policing and individualizes violent action that, in reality, are the expression of a racist structure. They do not lead to justice nor do they address the root causes of racial violence. In the long fight against racial, sexual, and gendered violence, carceral punishment is not the answer to keeping our communities safe, and we refuse to be used as another excuse to harm people of color, specifically Black folks, in our name.

We also reject both the complicity and active participation of Asians in the expansion of policing. Since the recent resurgence of uprisings in defense of Black Lives, we have seen pro-cop Asian “celebrity” activists co-opt the language of anti-racist organizing to increase policing in our communities. Recently, rapper China Mac and actor William Lex Ham appropriated an incident of violence against an 89-year-old Chinese woman in Bensonhurst to protest anti-Asian violence, using anti-racism and anti-cop slogans, only to later take credit for the creation of the NYPD task force. They have also appropriated rallies in Asian communities for Black Lives Matter to fundraise and pass out campaign flyers for Sergeant Steve Lee, an aspiring politician. Not only has Lee participated in pro-NYPD protests against Black Lives Matter and been backed by luxury real estate, he also has a record of domestic violence and abuse of sex workers. Further, these “activists” have continued to replicate misogynistic behavior through hypermasculinist “more arms, more police” organizing that ignores and takes for granted the consent of people they purport to rally on behalf of; harass those who disagree with them, including youth organizers; and disregard people’s safety in public spaces.

We uplift how Asian community groups within New York City, primarily through the leadership of women, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people, have long fought against the expansion of policing and prisons. Groups such as CAAAV, Mekong NYC, and DRUM have organized for economic and racial justice through anti-policing initiatives to defund NYPD and end surveillance. Red Canary Song organizes to decriminalize sex work and address the harms of police violence and harassment against migrant sex workers. The Chinatown Art Brigade has worked in solidarity with campaigns against borough-based jails expansion, including opposing jails construction in Chinatown.

The creation of this task force is a thinly veiled operation to get more cops in Asian communities.

What do we need instead? Instead of investing more resources in the NYPD, our communities need anti-violence infrastructures that don’t replicate or support systems that cage and dispose of people. For example, the Center for Anti-violence Education has been building upstander trainings that better enable community interventions and responses for disrupting racist attacks and harassment. Rather than bilingual cops, we need more funding for language justice so our communities can have the necessary translation and interpretation for accessing care, benefits, and services. Rather than bringing more police into our homes and communities, we need safe and accessible housing. We need institutional support for street vendors, nail salon workers, and other precarious Asian-American workers, including the decriminalization of sex work.

These forms of support will keep us safe.

In continuing the lineages of anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, and anti-racist movements before us, we continue to demand the abolition of the police, prison, and military complex. We demand no more cops and no more cages in our communities.

Signed,

Asian American Feminist Collective
Chinatown Art Brigade
Equality Labs
Q-Wave — Building Queer & Trans API Community Since 2004
Bangladeshi Feminist Collective
Bangladeshi Americans for Political Progress (BAPP)
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)
API Rainbow Parents of PFLAG NYC
GAPIMNY — Empowering Queer & Trans Asian Pacific Islanders
The Sống Collective
Asian Womxn in the Arts (AWA)
Red Canary Song
WOW Project
Sakhi for South Asian Women
Hai Bà Trưng — NYC
Chinese Feminist Collective
Nodutdol
Slant’d
Welcome to Chinatown
Mekong NYC
Owner-members of Our House
East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU)
Maynmai
CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities
Sister Diaspora for Liberation
NAPAWF*NYC
NAWS (Neighbors Against White Supremacy) Central Queens

9/3/20: We are still in the process of updating this list of signatories. If you are an NYC-based organization, group, and/or collective and would like to sign on, please email aafcollective@gmail.com.

New York City-based Asian American feminists in solidarity —organizing, politicizing, and talking back.

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