A Korean American artist was punched in the face and knocked to the ground on her way to work near Bryant Park in New York City.
The incident was posted on Facebook on July 7 from user Kate Bae, an independent curator, who recounted what happened on her early 7:38 a.m. commute to her job with the U.S. Census Bureau.
Since Bae lives in Kips Bay, passing by Bryant Park was a morning pleasure to her and a route of fresh air and greenery. It was her favorite park to go to when she first moved to the city, and she would go there often.
Bae was headed to the office when she saw an unassuming man walking in her direction on the corner of 42nd Street and 6th Avenue.
“He suddenly came close to me and just punched me,” she told Hyperallergic over the phone. “I fell backward on the ground but I got up immediately to identify him, although my head was hurting. When I screamed ‘stop right there,’ he started running away.”
In a level-headed call to Nextshark, Bae said she “did not get any threatening vibe from him,” calling him “cool and collected” before and after the attack. It was only after she yelled at him to stop did he flee the scene and she proceeded to chase after him for two and a half minutes. Eventually, she lost him and found two NYPD officers whose backs were turned when the attacker ran by. The officers took her complaint but were unable to locate him.
The Bryant Park-42nd St. area is typically known to have a notable police presence, though that didn’t appear to be the circumstance that day, according to Bae.
Officer Calvanese was the one who initially contacted Bae, personally filed her report, and would check in with her.
“The police have been extremely helpful, I am actually impressed and grateful,” she said. “He was angry for me, and he can’t believe a hate crime would occur in broad daylight in Manhattan,” she said.
The New York-based artist told NextShark that she started her job around mid-April, and since then she faced weekly verbal harassment on her way to work.
Bae wouldn’t pay it much attention and usually deflected the verbal assaults by saying “thank you,” “be safe,” or “I love you.”
The harassers wouldn’t go much farther, some wearing masks and some not.
Bae was only able to describe her attacker as a Black male to the police. Bae, who is an artist, also used her skills as a painter to help the police in their search for the suspect. She suspects that the attacker was wearing a mask.
Afterward, Bae went to a CityMD urgent care center where she was diagnosed with a facial contusion.
Bae went to the Midtown South Precinct on 357 W. 35th Street three days later on July 10 for a photo identification with Officer Orsi but was unable to positively identify her attacker.
The NYPD told her that there is footage of the incident but it’s not being shown to her because it could “influence the investigation.” For now, they told her that they are continuing to investigate.
Bae is glad that the incident happened to her instead of other people because her intention is to raise awareness about the COVID-19 harassment Asians face, especially Asian women.
She distinctly said that it is not to “spread fear among Asian people.”
Bae posted again on July 11, thanking people for the support, echoing that sentiment with a photo taken in June.
“I am not going to stop living my life because of this but it is giving me all sorts of problems,” she admitted. “Like I have to walk towards there again on Monday and I feel uneasy.”
NextShark has reached out to the NYPD for a statement.
Feature Image via Kate Bae