Community members gather together, holding signs of support for the Asian American community, in front of Troy City Hall April 11 during a Stop Asian Hate rally.

Community members gather together, holding signs of support for the Asian American community, in front of Troy City Hall April 11 during a Stop Asian Hate rally.

Photo provided by APIA Vote Michigan

Rochester officials address surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 5, 2021


ROCHESTER — Violent hate crimes against Asian Americans have risen with the spread of COVID-19, catching the attention of many elected officials.

Since March 2020, Stop Asian American Pacific Islander Hate — an advocacy group tracking hate incidents — said it has received nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents across the country, compared to roughly 100 incidents annually in previous years.

On April 22, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, addressing a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

The measure passed with bipartisan support, 94 to 1, with GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, of Missouri, voting no. The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives. If it passes, it will go to President Joe Biden for consideration.

The bill would assign a point person at the Department of Justice to expedite the review of violent hate crimes against Asian-Americans and expand the channels to report them. The measure would also create grants for state and local law enforcement agencies to respond to hate crimes, create new hate crime reporting hotlines, and expand public awareness campaigns aimed at raising awareness of hate crimes and reaching victims, among other things.

Michigan U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, who co-sponsored the bill, both voted in support of the legislation.

Peters said the legislation is an “important step” to address the surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans and provide resources to communities to prevent such violence.

“We need to do everything we can to come together and stop the alarming uptick in violence against Asian Americans in our country and to show the world that this kind of hate has no place here,” Peters said in a statement.

Stabenow said the “disturbing rise in violent attacks” against Asian Americans “has no place in Michigan or in America.”

“This bill is an important first step in helping to identify and stop these hate crimes,” Stabenow said in a statement.

But they aren’t alone.

Locally, the Rochester City Council approved a resolution “condemning hate crimes, hateful rhetoric, and hateful acts against Asians and Asian Americans, encouraging Rochester residents to report hate crimes and harassment to the proper authorities.”

The motion passed 6-1, with City Councilwoman Ann Peterson voting against.

During the April 26 meeting, Peterson said she wanted the word “rhetoric” in the resolution either defined or changed, and she said she “feels that everyone should be entitled to the same treatment.”

“I know there are some things happening in our world today that are not pleasant at all for anyone, and I do think that it’s more discriminatory to single people out, (rather) than keep us collective,” Peterson said.

City Councilwoman Amanda Harrison said she is “grateful” that city administrators brought the resolution to the council for consideration.

“The reason that this is a focus on the Asian American community right now is because we’re seeing a rise in hate crimes within the Asian community, and it’s very disheartening,” she said. “It’s on the rise since this pandemic has started. We’ve always known that anti-Asian sentiment has existed even before the pandemic. But now I feel worried about my friends and my colleagues as more and more hate crimes are being reported and talked about in the news media. The resolution, I feel, is just a very small act to say that we hear you and we’re standing by you.”

Rochester Police Chief Steve Schettenhelm said there have been no reported incidences of Asian American hate crimes in the city over the last year.

“We are certainly monitoring what’s happening in the country with regards to that, and we certainly encourage anyone that feels that they have had any threats to contact the Police Department and report it,” he said.

If anyone witnesses or experiences a hate crime, they are encouraged to report it to the Police Department. The Rochester Police Department can be reached at (248) 651-9621.