Welch talks Asian American Hate Crime Bill with Vermont leaders

Vermont News

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 4,000 hate crimes have been reported against Asian Americans. On Monday, Vermont Rep. Peter Welch met with members of the state’s Asian and Pacific Islander community, who said they fear the violence here as well.

“My mom—the first thing when this virus came about, she called me and goes, ‘Be prepared,'” said Mieko Ozek. “It’s in our heads. We have a history. We might be taken out, excluded, whatever it may be.”

That fear follows escalating attacks on Asians in major cities across the U.S., including the recent spa shootings in Atlanta and attacks on the elderly in New York City.

“All I could think about was my 75-year-old mother,” said Paul Suk-Hyun Yoon. “My three sisters, my aunt, my cousins– all who live and work in New York. What if something like that happened to them?”

Ozeki and Suk-Hyun Yoon are just two of the 12,000 people in the Green Mountain State who identify as Asian American or pacific islander. Congressman Peter Welch met with them before flying to Washington on Monday. Rep. Welch says the hatred against Asians was amplified by the pandemic and rhetoric from the Trump administration.

“The former president called it the ‘China virus,’ and it was a concerted effort to attribute blame for COVID on Asians which manifested into hate against Asian Americans,” Welch said.

This week in Washington, the House will be taking up an Asian American Hate Crime Bill that passed in the Senate 95 to 1. Welch says it will create a new position in the Attorney General’s Office focused on addressing the attacks, as well as hotlines as a channel for reporting hate crimes.

In Vermont, leaders hope it addresses microaggressions and racist behavior. “It’s the build-up that we see,” Ozeki said. “It’s very subtle. It’s language. It’s behavior. It’s a build-up, but it’s the extreme we fear.”

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