Hundreds Attend Peace Vigil In Union Square To Stand Against Violence Toward Asian-American CommunitiesBy CBSNewYork Team

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Advocates in New York City are calling for more support for the Asian community amid a spike in hate crimes.

Stop AAPI Hate says nearly 3,800 incidents have been reported over the last year, from verbal harassment to physical assault.

READ MORE: New York Leaders Rally Behind Asian American Community After Recent Attacks: ‘United In Our Anger’

“It makes me sad. It makes me angry,” Chinatown resident Ava Chin said.

Chin’s family has lived in Chinatown for 100 years. The lifelong resident says she’s now nervous to walk around.

“I’m not the only one. I have many friends who are scared. They’re living in fear. They don’t want to leave the house,” she told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes.

Jan Lee is a third-generation Chinatown resident.

“I haven’t had this feeling in the pit of my stomach for decades,” he said.

He says he now feels unsafe in the neighborhood he’s called home his whole life.

“I do look over my shoulder. I make sure that I’m with friends and I never walk alone anymore, and I really worry about our senior population. I worry about our kids in Chinatown,” Lee said.

It comes amid a huge spike in reported anti-Asian incidents across the country during the pandemic, plus the shootings in Atlanta this week, where six of the eight murdered victims were Asian.

Investigators say the suspect claimed the attacks were not racially motivated, but police have not ruled out whether the killings were hate crimes.

In New York, the NYPD commissioner says so far this year, there have been 10 suspected anti-Asian hate crimes, but he and the mayor believe that number is higher because many go unreported.

“This is a horrifying moment for Asian Americans,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday. “We need everyone to report everything they see so that we can evaluate it and act on it and stop the perpetrator.”

Watch Andrea Grymes’ report —

Friday, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, backed by several community groups, denounced anti-Asian violence. They’re calling for the restoration of previously cut funding for the city’s Hate Violence Prevention Initiative.

“The message is, the way to combat hate is to fund the folks behind me who have experience in these communities, have experience pushing back in hate,” Williams said.

“During this time of so much violence and hatred directed at the Asian-American community, one way to prevent tragedy is before it starts. As Jumaane said, we need support, we need money, we need lots of money with lots of zeroes,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, with the Asian American Federation.

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“Unfortunately, in the last year, I have had staff who have been spat on, who have been beat up, had things thrown at them, had racial slurs told to them,” said Wayne Ho, with the Chinese-American Planning Council.

Candles lit up a dark Union Square on Friday night as hundreds of people gathered to stand against violence toward the Asian-American community.

“It’s not gonna happen without the truth. It’s not gonna happen without facing the problem,” one speaker said.

“When I look out in this crowd, I see America. I see the true spirit of what America was meant to be,” said a 13-year-old speaker from Hoboken, New Jersey.

Ravi Reddi, with the Asian American Federation, read the names of the victims of the Georgia shootings — Delaina Ashley Yaun, Hyun Jung Grant, Yong Ae Yue, Suncha Kim, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Soon Chung Park and Paul Andre Michels.

“They are why we are here today,” Reddi said.

Friday, police released new surveillance video showing the young white gunman methodically walking into one of the spas before carrying out the attacks.

RELATED STORY: Biden Speaks After Meeting With Asian American Leaders In Atlanta Following Shootings

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with leaders in Atlanta to condemn the violence.

“Words have consequences,” Biden said. “It’s the coronavirus, full stop.”

Back in New York, those attending the vigil say the rise in violence is frightening.

“It’s literally scary. I came from the Upper West Side. I had to bring the keys in my hands just in case,” Susan Lee said.

“What does it feel like to be around so many people who are saying this is not OK?” CBS2’s Jessica Moore asked Lily Li, of the East Village.

“I feels incredible in the way that, I think, all of us just came from work, and we kind of mask our emotions to get by, and it feels nice to suspend that,” Li said.

Fearful emotions many pray will soon be a distant memory.

MORE NEWS: Museum Of Chinese In America Documents Racism, Violence Against Asian Community During Coronavirus Pandemic

CBS2’s Andrea Grymes and Jessica Moore contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team