Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on social media last week detailed a “very disturbing trend”: The city’s Asian population is falling victim to discrimination and intimidation due to stigmas arising amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Hancock learned of the ongoing problem after holding a conference call with leaders of the Asian community, who said that residents of Asian descent had “become targets of bias-motivated crimes, or simply become victims of physical violence, intimidation and discrimination.”
The city “values equity and inclusivity, and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Hancock wrote on Twitter. “It’s disturbing to learn that there are increasing reports of people in our Asian community being harassed and targeted for this epidemic.”
As of April 6, at least one Asian hate crime has been reported and is currently under investigation, according to the Denver Police Department. The “coronavirus-related harassment” of an Asian man occurred on Feb. 16, but the department could not provide any additional information to “protect the integrity of the investigation.”
No anti-Asian crimes were reported in 2019, the police department confirmed in an email.
The Colorado Asian Chamber of Commerce in late February conducted a poll that found that, among about a dozen Asian businesses in the metro area, there was a 30% to 40% drop in patrons visiting Chinese restaurants.
In light of the news, Gov. Jared Polis in early March visited several Asian businesses along Federal Boulevard as a way to show solidarity and caution against stereotyping.
“It’s important in the face of coronavirus that Coloradans continue to support our Asian community and their businesses," Polis wrote on Facebook afterward. "I’d encourage all Coloradans to reach out and support the Asian-American community in every way you can — especially during this time."
During a Denver City Council meeting on March 31, Councilwoman Robin Kniech blamed, in part, President Donald Trump for fueling the disrespectful behavior seen across the country. Trump only recently stopped calling the virus the “Wuhan flu,” which many critics say perpetuated racial tension.
“As our president has unfortunately identified COVID-19 as somehow related to one country when, as we know, it is affecting every country in the world, we unfortunately are hearing increased reports of either uncomfortable or disrespectful treatment of Asian residents, all the way up to actually bias-motivated language and incidents,” she said.
“This is unacceptable. Our community needs to treat all members with respect,” she made clear.
Denver leaders are encouraging residents to report any bias-motivated incidents to 720-913-6458 and to report any hate crimes to the police department.
“Denver, together, we can protect our Asian neighbors and friends,” Hancock said. “Together, we’ll be strong. Together, we’ll get through this COVID-19 threat. And together we will rise as one.”
The Colorado Asian Chamber of Commerce and the Asian Pacific Development Center did not immediately return requests for comment.