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Inslee, local leaders decry 'horrendous surge' of violence against Asians

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was joined Monday by community leaders to decry what he called a “horrendous surge” of violence against Asian-Americans.

Last week, authorities say, a white man shot and killed six women of Asian descent and two other people at Atlanta-area massage businesses. Over the weekend there were rallies in many cities to demand justice for the victims, bring attention to the violence and to denounce racism and xenophobia.

Inslee criticized former President Donald Trump for calling COVID-19 the “China virus.”

“We are affected by what we say — that has an impact,” Inslee said Monday at Renton City Hall. “And, unfortunately, some people allowed the president of the United States to fan the flames of hatred against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders for years, and people did not stand up against it.”

State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos represents a district that includes Seattle’s Chinatown International District. At the news conference, she pointed to the country’s long history of anti-Asian violence and xenophobia and the need for a better way to understand and report hate crimes.

“When you hear my community saying, ‘I am not your virus, I am not your scapegoat,’ they’re also saying, ‘I’m not your geisha girl, and I’m not your computer geek. I am an individual,’ because we have not been silent. But no one is listening to us, and that has to change,” Tomiko Santos said.

Inslee said there have been discussions about having a “centralized way to collect information about harassment complaints, even without reporting a crime.”

One of the speakers was a local high school teacher who talked about being attacked in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District in late February.

Nariko Nasu says a man attacked her with what she believes was a rock put inside a sock, fracturing her nose and cheek, leaving her with broken teeth and a concussion.

KOMO reports the man accused of attacking her was charged with only two counts of second-degree assault — not first degree assault or with a hate crime. He pleaded not guilty on Monday.

“Worst case, he could be freed after 12 to 14 months in prison and could come back to Chinatown to attack more people,” Nasu said.

In an email to media, a spokesperson for the King County Prosecutor’s Office called the attack “horrible” but said they did not believe they could prove it was a hate crime. The spokesperson explained the suspect has been charged with two felony assault crimes – and would face a longer punishment than if the case were charged as a hate crime.

Moreover, if the prosecutor’s office can prove Nasu’s injuries “were excessive,” a judge would have the ability to increase the defendant’s sentence up to a maximum of 10 years.

King County Executive Dow Constantine also spoke at the news conference to announce his intent to use federal money from the American Rescue Plan to distribute $5 million in grants to community organizations focused on anti-hate and bias response as well as to ethnic media.

“Through education and visibility, we can help deter that violence and that hate,” Constantine said. “We want people to be able to understand how to join in the battle against racism through a public health approach.”

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