A convicted sex offender who is now a member of an advocacy group was reportedly allowed to unleash anti-Asian remarks at a New York City Council hearing on Friday.
Douglas Powell, who was found guilty in 2012 of an attempted criminal sex act with a victim under 15 years old in 2008, appeared at the hearing in support of a proposed law that would prevent landlords from conducting criminal background checks on potential tenants, according to the New York Post.
The 59-year-old Level 2 sex offender is now part of Voices of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY), an advocacy group that empowers people affected by HIV or AIDS, drug use and mass incarceration.
He said he resides in Rego Park, which he described in his speech as the “most racist neighborhood” he has ever been in.
“It’s nothing but Asians there. … If you go into a store, they will follow you around like you’re getting ready to steal something,” he claimed at the hearing. “They don’t want Black people living in Black people neighborhoods. Because it’s not their neighborhood, because they’re from China, they’re from Hong Kong. We from New York.”
Powell delivered his tirade after two Asian women and two white women testified against the proposed law over public safety concerns.
Those Asian women were Yiatin Chu, president of the Asian Wave Alliance, and Susan Lee, a former City Council candidate.
“This is not about felonies — it’s about race, it’s about Black people,” Powell claimed. “Did you see the Asian people just been talking?”
Not a single councilmember stopped or objected to Powell’s anti-Asian tirade, according to reports.
Several people, including, Chu, took to Twitter to slam the officials.
“Can you imagine if he was saying the same about Blacks, Hispanics or Jewish people? Would our electeds be silent and move on as if nothing racist happened?” Chu questioned.
“‘They from China, Hong Kong…we from New York.’ What does that mean? We are not NYers? That we don’t deserve a say? He called our testimony ‘garbage,’” she added.
Lee also expressed outrage at the lack of response from the councilmembers.
Councilmember Sandra Ung, who was not at the hearing, also denounced Powell’s remarks as “racist and divisive.”
“The comments at today’s @NYCCouncil hearing attacking Asian Americans were racist and divisive. Racial attacks like this have no place in our city, much less in Council Chambers, and should be condemned by all,” Ung tweeted, tagging VOCAL-NY.
Amid the backlash, Councilmember Nantasha Williams, who chairs the committee that presided over the hearing, issued a belated statement on the incident.
She condemned racism but offered no apology for her lack of immediate action.
“In reference to yesterdays hearing on fair chance for housing: Racism and discrimination hurt us all in different ways and responding to them with similar rhetoric is never the solution,” Williams wrote on Twitter. “As a Black woman, a member of one of the most hated and disrespected demographics on the planet, I know personally how deeply hurtful language can be to our progress as a people and one’s personal safety.”
She continued: “The prejudice against both Asian communities, Black communities and justice-involved folks is a product of systematic racism that we must stand against. In May, I held a hearing on hate crimes to highlight the recent increase in anti-Asian hate in our city. I felt it was important to ensure our Asian brothers and sisters had both the support and resources they needed to combat hate. … Our liberation is rooted in each other’s freedoms, that is why I denounce any hateful comments directed towards any community.”
The criticism, however, only continued.