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Asian Americans outraged by inaction over hate crimes: “I’m just fighting for us to be seen”

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Vicha Ratanapakdee came to San Francisco, California, in 2000. His daughter Monthanus has lived in the city with her husband, Eric Lawson, for over a decade. She said Ratanapadkee loved his grandchildren and loved his family. The devoted grandfather died after being brutally assaulted just one month ago in broad daylight. Ratanapakdee’s story is just one of many attacks against Asian Americans caught on camera over the last few months. More than 3,000 hate incidents directed at Asian Americans nationwide have been recorded since the start of the pandemic, according to advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate.

“Never in my dream would I think this would happen to him or that he’d die here,” Monthanu told CBS News’ Weijia Jiang.

“Do you think this was a hate crime?” Jiang asked.

“When I see this, and when he runs across the street and kill him without taking anything from my father, I think it’s a hate crime,” Monthanu said.

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‘There’s just no other explanation,” Lawson said.

While not all crimes against Asian Americans are hate crimes, advocates say the community is being targeted, and they believe it’s driven by misinformation about COVID-19.

Activist Amanda Nguyen highlighted the attacks on social media in a video that has now been viewed more than nine million times.

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“I was blood boiling in my veins mad. It was not only because I saw our community being murdered, being lit on fire, being stabbed but also because the mainstream media wasn’t covering it,” Nguyen said.

Community groups have mobilized as coverage of anti-Asian racism, which surged to more than 200 stories a week early in the pandemic, slowed to a trickle by the end of last year.

President Joe Biden recently directed the Department of Justice to get more involved in tracking these attacks, but action has been slow.

While at least half of Asian Americans continued to experience cases of direct racism, nearly 1 in 5 of which were physical assaults.

“Literally, people have lost their lives, and it shouldn’t have taken up to this point for us to be outraged. I’m just fighting for us to be seen – it is the bare minimum,” Nguyen said.

Yunhan Zhang knows what it’s like to live in fear. Zhang, the owner of a tea parlor in Washington D.C., was attacked with pepper spray last fall.

He said actions like President Biden’s executive memorandum condemning anti-Asian racism are a start but don’t go nearly far enough.

“We have a very practical issue – people getting attacked on the street. We need to do a lot more than an executive order to prevent those things from happening, and so far, nothing has happened yet,” Zhang said.

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California Congresswoman Judy Chu chairs the Asian Pacific American Caucus. She said the attacks are becoming an almost daily tragedy.

“Right now, the ability to fight hate crimes is very uneven across the different jurisdictions,” Chu said.

She hopes the Biden administration will support new legislation to track and prosecute hate crimes. Chu and many members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community said former President Trump not only failed to protect its members, but his rhetoric led to their pain.

“We are still living in the aftermath of the Trump era. So we have a job to do we, we still have to get the word out and educate people about what is happening,” Chu said.

Back in San Francisco, a makeshift memorial is growing at the spot where Ratanapakdee was killed.

“I want to see fair justice for him. These things happen for so many years, and it has to stop it now,” Monthanu said.

In a new statement, the Justice Department said it is committed to stopping the attacks and said the department has trained hundreds of prosecutors and law enforcement officers to identify, investigate, and prosecute hate crimes over the past few months. But without a permanent attorney general, it seems more federal action is on hold.

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