A viral video depicting an Asian American shop worker in Philadelphia being assaulted is sparking outrage. The incident took place the day before a Thursday protest in the city over rising violence against Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
Police confirmed the employee of a South Philadelphia corner store was attacked on Wednesday after she pursued a shoplifter. Although the graphic video shows a police cruiser in the background while the assault takes place, a police spokesperson indicated the car was parked and unoccupied during the attack.
“Soon after the disturbing assault in this video, the officer whose unoccupied vehicle is visible returned to the scene and located the victim,” reads a police statement posted to an official social media account. “A short time later, he was able to locate and arrest the offender.”
Police said a suspect was located shortly after the attack and has been charged with robbery. The victim, contacted by WHYY News, affirmed these events but declined to comment and asked not to be identified.
Other incidents of violence kicked off a new round of protests in the wake of the killing of eight people, including six women of Asian descent, by a white man in the Atlanta area. Alix Webb, executive director at Asian Americans United, said that violence directed at AAPI merchants has long been a fact of life.
“There’s a long history of this kind of thing in Philadelphia and around the country,” she said. “We run youth programs and many parents work in small shops or family-owned businesses. This is part of an ongoing trend in our communities and something we have to address. I don’t see how we can not connect [the attack], in some way, as part of an overall problem.”
Attacks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have increased in recent years, which some have attributed to politicians like former President Donald Trump using racist language in connection to the pandemic.
According to statistics compiled by Stop AAPI Hate, some 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents were reported nationwide last year, including 97 in Pennsylvania.
The city said anti-Asian American hate incidents tripled from 2019 and 2020, and has already received 28 such complaints in 2021.
Get daily updates from WHYY News!