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Violent Acts Against U.S. Asians Climb : Prejudice: California leads the nation in reported incidents. They include racial slurs, property defacement, beatings.

August 01, 1995|SUSAN MOFFAT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Anti-immigrant sentiment has increased acts of racially motivated violence against Asian Americans, with the number of reported incidents nationwide swelling by 35% last year, according to a study released Monday by a Washington-based advocacy group.

Asian Americans have had swastikas painted on their houses, been attacked with baseball bats and been beaten to taunts of "Go back to your country!" and "Go away, gooks," according to the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium.

Nationally, 452 cases of racially motivated assaults, vandalism, and verbal intimidation against Asian Americans were reported in 1994, up from 335 the previous year, according to the group's second annual report on the subject. All but a handful of the incidents reported included physical attacks.

Kathryn Imahara, principal author of the report, blamed anti-immigrant rhetoric for fanning the flames of violence. "It's been our experience that hateful words do lead at some point to violence," said Imahara, an attorney with the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles.

Part of the increase in reported incidents can be accounted for by improved attention to hate crimes in some jurisdictions, Imahara said. However, she said the study gives only a partial picture of the violence occurring, because recent immigrants from Asia are often distrustful of or unable to communicate with police, and because many states and local police departments do not keep track of racially motivated crimes.

California, which has the largest population of Asians in the nation, had the most reported incidents of violence--146 cases. However, the consortium noted that California has one of the poorest records of reporting hate crimes to the FBI, which compiles national statistics. Only 11 police departments in California reported hate crimes to the FBI for its latest report, compared with 571 jurisdictions in New York and 555 in Michigan. The Los Angeles Police Department was among the agencies that did not report to the FBI.

In Southern California, there were 63 cases of racially motivated incidents reported against Asian Americans last year, including 17 assaults, up from 45 incidents in 1993, according to the study.

The study described a number of the racial incidents:

* On a flight from Los Angeles to Oakland, two Chinese American women and their four children were subjected to 30 minutes of racial slurs and threats by about 20 whites who had been drinking.

* In the months leading up to the passage of Proposition 187, there was "an unprecedented number of hate flyers stuffed into grocery bags, home mailboxes, and student lockers" in Southern California.

* In Alhambra, an Asian man was beaten by a white man yelling racial epithets.

* In Queens, N.Y., three teen-agers attacked a man from India, punching him and burning his face with a cigarette, while verbally insulting his ethnicity.

* A Chinese American family was assaulted by several people at an amusement park in Vallejo, north of San Francisco, telling them to go back to China.

* A Vietnamese family in Allston, Mass., was attacked three times in one day by white neighbors wielding a baseball bat, hockey sticks and tear gas.

* A Vietnamese Catholic church in Du Page, Ill., was set on fire and vandalized with a Nazi swastika and the message "Go away, gooks" by three white teen-agers.

* In New York, there were 26 reported incidents of racially motivated police brutality against Asians, mostly Indian and Pakistani taxi drivers.

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