Three unidentified teenagers were caught on surveillance camera this past week vandalizing headstones in a predominantly Asian and Asian American section of the Cypress Hill Cemetery, a 225-acre cemetery in Queens and Brooklyn, reports DNAinfo.
The teens spray-painted anti-Asian and Islamophobic slurs — including the phrases “ching chong” and “fuck Jackie Chan” — and approximately 70 headstones were knocked down and 15 mausoleum memorial plaques destroyed in the attack. According to DNAinfo, the cemetery houses several notable graves, including that of NYPD officer Wenjian Liu, who was killed in his patrol car along with his partner in 2014 in an apparently targeted attack against the NYPD.
According to police, the three unidentified teens caught on surveillance footage are between 16 and 19 years old. Police are seeking the public’s help to identify the suspects in the attack, which police are currently identifying as a possible hate crime. Anyone with information is invited to contact NYPD Crime Stoppers.
This year has seen a marked increase in hate-linked vandalism attacks against cemeteries — in particular Jewish cemeteries — across the country, as well as a rash of attacks against mosques, synagogues, and Black churches; however, Tuesday night’s attack appears to be one of the first to specifically target a predominantly Asian and Asian American cemetery. Nonetheless, the Asian American community has been targeted with other forms of racist graffiti, such as in June when a private home was spray-painted with anti-Asian slurs in Connecticut. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reports that hate incidents increased in the days after President Trump’s inauguration in January, and although the frequency has since tapered off they have not by any means ceased. Indeed, the SPLC says that members of most marginalized groups are enduring an increased prevalence of hate incidents across the country including in presumptively liberal cities, and that shouts of “go back to your country” are now commonplace.
In response to the recent anti-Semitic attacks on synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in New York, state lawmakers introduced a bill in March that would reclassify the vandalism of a cemetery as a Class E felony which would increase punishment of those found guilty of the crime. That bill — S1109 — passed the New York State Senate and is currently in committee in the New York State Assembly as A6754.