A recent series of attacks on elderly Asian Americans in San Francisco prompted leaders, members, and supporters of the AAPI community to demand a town hall meeting with the city’s police chief to address the issue. The meeting was held on Aug. 16 in Chinatown.
One of those attacks involved 70-year-old Mrs. Ren who was violently robbed and injured multiple times by a teenager and three juveniles at her senior living center on July 31.
“Three of the four individuals were under the age of 18, as young as 11 years old. And that is sad,” said San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott at the packed town hall meeting.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s office announced that three of the four suspects have been arrested and an 18-year-old has been charged with a felony. They are still working on locating a 14-year-old suspect. The 11-year-old will not be charged.
“It’s crazy. Media is raising our children nowadays. I see it, just parents giving their phone to their kids in a grocery store to have them watch YouTube. You know what I mean, things like that,” said town hall attendee and activist Serena Morales.
Morales says she’s been working since Nov 2021 to find the killers of Jasper Wu, a baby victim struck by a stray bullet while riding in his mom’s car on the freeway.
“[Jasper] was killed on November 6. His killing has been classified as a car accident according to the California Highway Patrol. And I think that’s just devastating. I think the violence absolutely needs to end,” Morales said.
Greg Chew, 70, former San Francisco commissioner, was among the recent senior victims. He was punched and beaten across the street from his home by a bicycle-riding attacker on Aug. 6.
“What we’ve seen in the past two years—some of this started in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic—is really, particularly in 2020 and 2021, an increase in attacks against the Asian community,” Police Chief Scott said to the town hall attendees.
The San Francisco District Attorney, members of the San Francisco Police Department and Asian-American community leaders were among the attendees.
According to the US. Census in 2021, Asian Americans make up about 37 percent of San Francisco's population.
Justin Zhu, one of the co-organizers of the event and co-founder of Stand with Asian Americans requested the chief to hire more police leaders from the Chinese community, which would help with following up on incidents with non-English speakers.
“We’ve had enough of this, we really need leaders who care about Asian Americans, Chinese Americans who live here, and someone who is from that community and who cares about protecting our people as police officer, as a police leader. I think there are a lot of qualified people out there if we really look,” said Zhu.
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins answered questions from the public and said her team is working hard to solve the cases.
“I think that it’s a sad state when we get to the point that our children are victimizing and assaulting who should be the most respected members of our society,” Jenkins said to the crowd.
But not everyone thought the newly appointed district attorney is doing enough. In attendance was former San Francisco Police Commissioner Joe Alioto Veronese who is running against Jenkins for district attorney in the upcoming November election.
“Send the message to these thugs. ‘You come into San Francisco, we’re gonna throw the book at you, you’re gonna go to prison, and you’re gonna pay restitution.’ And as long as they get the book thrown at them, the message is gonna be sent to the rest of their friends, that we’re not gonna come to San Francisco to do these crimes because all of these perpetrators are coming outside of San Francisco,” Veronese said.
At the meeting, Supervisor Matt Dorsey talked about providing more funding to the police force. He also said that crime prevention starts with giving media exposure to arrests as much as the attack itself.
“Because that is ultimately what will send the message to would-be attackers that it shouldn’t even be something you would think about in San Francisco. If you commit a hate crime or a hate incident in San Francisco, you’re going to be caught, you’re going to be prosecuted and held accountable. That’s why we have to send that message and be really vigilant in communicating that we’re not going to be tolerating this kind of violence here,” Dorsey said.
The co-organizers said they were happy about the large turnout and community involvement. However, they wanted more concrete proposals from the city’s leadership and believe there’s still progress to be made. They said they may talk to the mayor to continue the momentum.