Mayor Eric Adams called out anti-Asian hate crimes in Chinatown during a celebration Tuesday kicking off Lunar New Year festivities and a start of the Year of the Tiger.
“Year of the Tiger, it shows us the strength, resiliency and endurance as we move through COVID, as we move through crime, as we open our economy,” Adams told the crowd, gathered at the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Basketball Court Tuesday morning. “I’m recommitted more than ever, to make sure my AAPI community is safe in the city of New York as we end the violence against this community, we stand united.”
Lunar New Year is the most significant holiday for Asian communities around the world. Asians will typically take off from work and travel home to celebrate and gather with families. The festivities can last two weeks. For Asian New Yorkers, the beginning of a new year carries the hope not only of the city’s recovery from the coronavirus — which put last year's festivities on hold — but also from a spate of anti-Asian violence.
Hate crimes against Asian New Yorkers surged last year, according to NYPD data. There were 131 reports of Anti-Asian hate crimes, up from 28 the year before. Both years also saw more reports of attacks against Jewish New Yorkers, though advocates say hate crimes of all kinds often go under-reported.
For onlooker Benjamin Wei, the founder of Asians Fighting Injustice, hate crimes were also top of mind. He mentioned the recent killing of 61-year-old Yao Pan Ma who was kicked repeatedly in the head, and the subway pushing of Michelle Go, though that hasn’t been classified as a hate crime.
Wei said Lunar New Year, which kicked off under clear blue skies, is a chance for a fresh start. With all the recent tragedies, he said the community needs that more than ever.
“We wash our sheets, we clean our apartments, we get our haircut, and we are hopeful that this coming year, the year of the Tiger, is one that is positive, one that is full of hope and optimism, one that we, as a community can heal and move on,” he said. “[Our city] needs to be safer, not just for Asian Americans, but for everyone.”
Hundreds of masked spectators lined the area Tuesday, straining to get a glimpse of the performers and the mayor.
Lion dancers at one point shuffled in front of Adams, who held out a stick of hanging cabbage, a symbol of good fortune. Those in the crowd elbowed their way to the front to touch the head of the lions, also considered a gesture that would bring good luck.
The piece de resistance was the traditional lighting of firecrackers which is meant to scare away evil spirits as well as mark the excitement of a new year.
Correction: A previous version of this story mischaracterized last year's Lunar New Year festivities.