‘The hate is a virus’: Lower Manhattan ralliers demand justice for bias crime victim

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Those at the rally chanted “Safe streets! Safe subways!”
Photo by Dean Moses

On the day the suspect in a violent anti-Asian hate crime in Midtown faced his arraignment, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York (CACGNY) rallied outside New York Criminal Court on Monday morning demanding safer streets. 

The brutal March 29 attack on Vilma Kari, an elderly Filipino American woman, sent new shockwaves throughout New York City, which has already been shaken by a dramatic recent surge in bias crimes targeting Asian New Yorkers. The suspect in the attack, Brandon Elliot, was scheduled for a virtual appearance on Monday morning at Lower Manhattan’s criminal court.

Though the proceedings were confined to a computer, a crowd of Asian community leaders and concerned citizens gathered to demand at the courthouse to demand that justice be served.

Speakers took aim at the justice system for allowing Elliot back on the streets .Photo by Dean Moses

Made up primarily of Asian Americans, the group displayed signs stating that “The hate is a virus” and “Brandon Elliot should never been released from jail” (Elliot had been paroled in 2019 more than a decade after his conviction on a second-degree murder charge). 

Like others at previous rallies against anti-Asian crimes, the crowd called for safer streets and an increased NYPD presence. However, they also blamed the “defund the police” movement for an increased uptick in crimes facing the AAPI community.

“This attack would not have happened if he was not released, it makes absolutely no sense that they released somebody who killed his own mother and let him walk free in the streets with little or no follow up or social services,” said Phil Wong, the CACGNY President, at the rally.

“The hate is a virus” read one sign. Photo by Dean Moses

Although the anti-Asian attacks have been dominating the media as of late, many at the rally felt as though other New Yorkers as a whole are also under attack due to a flailing criminal justice system.  They also referred to the rise in anti-Semitic crimes over the past few years, and how many Jewish New Yorkers have said they feel unsafe walking the streets and riding the subways as well.

“It is at this time we are seeing an increase in crime against Asian and other groups such as the attack last week on a Jewish family right here in Lower Manhattan. If we don’t speak up now and bring an end to it immediately it will just grow and grow,” said Avi Cyperstein, a candidate for City Council.

The sidewalk was flooded with signs. Photo by Dean Moses

Elliot’s brutal attack on Kari was even more notable for the words he said during the attack: “You don’t belong here.” With that in mind, Wong looked up at the New York Criminal Court building and said: “Brandon Elliott will appear in this criminal court and to him we say Vilma belongs here! Asians belong here!”  

Mayoral candidate Curtis Silwa, and members of the Guardian Angels, also joined the rally to emphasize their support for an increase in policing and the fight against hate crimes in New York City.

Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa spoke at the rally. Photo by Dean Moses