A Florida woman is facing hate crime charges after authorities say she berated a group of women with anti-Asian remarks and attacked them with pepper spray in New York City last week.
The New York Police Department announced Friday that it had arrested Madeline Barker, 47, after the incident, which was partially captured on video.
The victims told ABC7 New York that they were walking in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District at about 6 p.m. on June 11 when a woman accused them of harassing her. The victims said they had no prior interactions with the woman, but they tried to calm her down by apologizing to her. In response, the assailant pulled out a can of pepper spray and yelled at them, “Go back to where you came from, you don’t belong here,” one victim told ABC7.
She sprayed four women with pepper solution and yelled at an Asian man passing on the sidewalk to take the women “back to where you came from,” using an expletive, a police spokesperson told CNN.
The victims declined medical attention at the scene, police said.
Video obtained by the New York Post shows a woman, dressed in bright fuchsia, run after a woman and pepper-spray her from behind as she walks away.
Barker, of Merritt Island, Fla., was arraigned Saturday on three counts of assault as a hate crime, one count of attempted assault as a hate crime, and four counts of aggravated harassment, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. When shown a still image from the video, Barker admitted to being the woman in the incident, according to the complaint.
Barker was being held on $20,000 bail Sunday afternoon, jail records show, and her next court appearance was scheduled for Thursday.
Her public defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday afternoon.
Hate crimes against Asian Americans have risen precipitously since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. In New York, anti-Asian hate crimes jumped 357 percent between 2020 and 2021, according to the NYPD.
Despite legislative efforts to step up investigations of hate crimes, the violence has not abated in 2022. This year, two high-profile killings of Asian American women in New York City have rattled Asian communities there.
In January, Michelle Alyssa Go, 40, was shoved onto the subway tracks at the Times Square station.
In February, a man pursued Christina Yuna Lee, 35, into her Manhattan apartment and fatally stabbed her.
Later that month, a man allegedly assaulted seven Asian women in two hours along a 30-block stretch in Manhattan. He was indicted on 13 hate crimes charges.
The K-pop group BTS appeared at the White House last month to raise awareness about the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes, which have particularly targeted women and the elderly.
Amanda Nguyen, CEO of the civil rights nonprofit Rise, told The Washington Post Live in March that the “intersection of race and gender is one that we cannot overlook.”
“Unfortunately, these acts of violence that have been targeted toward the Asian American community, especially women, have existed pre-covid,” she said. “The pandemic absolutely exacerbated these issues, especially when we had leaders saying things like ‘China virus’ or ‘China flu.’”