March 13, 2023 By Michael Dorgan and Paul Frangipane
Several Queens elected officials held a rally in Corona Friday, March 10, condemning an alleged anti-Asian beat down of a woman and her son that took place earlier this month — and hate crimes in general.
The rally was held at Corona Plaza, which is situated a few blocks away from where Cecille Lai, 44, and her son Kyle Lai, 24 were allegedly kicked and punched in the head by three suspects on March 2.
Police say that the trio got out of a white Acura SUV near the Junction Boulevard subway station at around 2:30 p.m. before attacking the pair – who are of Filipino heritage – while one of the suspects yelled out “ugly Asian.” Cecille Lai suffered a concussion, scratches to her eye, and bruising on her body, while her son suffered a skull fracture, according to reports.
Two of the three suspects have since been arrested by the 115th Precinct on hate crime charges.
The rally was attended by several lawmakers including U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, State Senators John Liu and Michael Gianaris, Assembly members Steven Raga and Jenifer Rajkumar, as well as City Council member Shekar Krishnan and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. Cecille Lai was also present.
The speakers gathered underneath a tent at the plaza and they were watched by a small group of spectators and activists. Some carried banners that read: “stop Asian hate,” “all violence is an act of hate,” and “I still believe in our city.” Several Ecuadorian dancers performed traditional dance routines to signify the diversity of Queens and the solidarity of its cultures.
Krishnan, whose district covers Jackson Heights, said it was not the first time the community had joined forces to condemn racially motivated attacks in the neighborhood.
“Time and time again… we have gathered to express our outrage to hate against our Asian communities,” Krishnan said.
“Ms. Lai and her son are not alone in this, we come together in moments like these and long after to know that a whole community stands together to help Ms. Lai and her son, to make sure that incidents like these never happen again.”
Cecille Lai, who looked shaken while speaking, said she could not fathom why she was violently attacked.
“I’m just confused, I just don’t understand, why do we have hate for each other?” Lai asked.
Lai said that not enough was being done to tackle hate crimes across the city and said preventative action should be taken in schools.
“I decided to come here to show strength for our community and that we should start speaking out because people think it’s not happening anymore or that it’s gone, but it’s still happening and we have to do more to educate our community,” Lai said. “Start with little children to teach them to respect differences in people.”
The elected officials said they were deeply saddened and concerned to learn about what happened to the pair, and they vowed to stand up against such hate-filled acts in the community.
There was a total of four hate crime incidents reported in the 115th Precinct last year, down one from 2021, while the neighboring 110th Precinct reported eight hate crime complaints in 2022, up 3 from 2021, according to the NYPD’s hate crime database. Meanwhile, there have been 79 felony assaults in the 115th Precinct so far this year, a 19.7 percent increase compared to the same period last year, NYPD data shows.
Richards said that a mother and her son should be able to walk across the street without the fear of being attacked because of who they are. He also called on perpetrators of hate crime laws to be held to a higher standard under the law.
“Too many times we’ve had to come together in this borough under the same unfortunate circumstances where there are those who, for some reason, don’t understand tolerance, don’t understand that it’s okay for people to be of a different skin color or complexion or to love or to worship who they want to worship,” Richards said.
“This county will always stand together in the face of hate… and we understand that diversity is our strength in Queens county.”
Meanwhile, Meng echoed Donovan’s words and said that there is a lot of work to do to root out hate.
“I know it’s hard for people to come out today because we’ve had to do this over and over again, especially in the last few years,” Meng said. “We have seen incidents of bias and hatred and violence from verbal assaults to physical attacks to murders happen in our home city, right here, one of the most diverse areas in the entire country. And we have had to hear the racism and the bigotry hurled over and over again to our community… we as Asian-Americans come together to say that we are American too.”