Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has reportedly slashed nearly 50 percent of the city’s anti-Asian hate crime fund, raising concerns that the issue has fallen out of priority.
Harrell, the first Asian American elected into the position, defended the cut as being a result of a $140 million deficit, according to The Stranger. However, he also seeks to fund new initiatives, including $1 million for a gunfire detection system that has sparked controversy for years.
Last year, Seattle distributed more than $300,000 among nine local Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations to combat violence. Under Harrell’s 2023 budget proposal, that amount drops to $166,000.
It is unclear whether those nine organizations will be the same ones to get less funding or if there will be fewer groups to receive grants.
Violence against Asians persists in Seattle, with community volunteers saying they happen “all the time” and are underreported.
In July, Michael John Allen, 40, was arrested for attacking multiple Asian women in downtown Seattle. In one incident, he allegedly told two Chinese women to “go back to China” before punching one of them in the shoulder.
More recently, Indian American Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant reportedly fell victim to multiple incidents of feces being thrown at her home. She has called for stronger action from law enforcement.
Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that tracks anti-Asian hate incidents, has expressed disappointment in Harrell’s proposed budget cut. As a mayoral candidate, Harrell often spoke against anti-Asian hate, but his use of power as an elected official now shows his true priorities, the nonprofit said.
“Unfortunately, it sends a message that our community’s needs are not important,” Stop AAPI Hate cofounder Manjusha Kulkarni told The Stranger. “And that investing in community-based organizations is not a priority for the mayor and for local government.”
With the budget cut, Harrell’s office is reportedly implementing a “holistic” approach to public safety. This entails funds of $5.8 million for “community safety solutions,” $1 million for victim support services and $7 million for maintaining cops and firefighters, as per The Stranger.
Harrell’s full 2023 budget proposal can be found here.