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Council members unanimously passed a resolution that specifically addresses anti-Chinese COVID-19 references, including terms such as “Chinese virus” or “kung fu virus,” claiming such language encourages hate crimes and other incidents against Asian-Americans and Asian immigrants.
“Unfortunately, during times of crisis we do see the best of humanity and sometimes we also see the worst,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who initiated the resolution, according to San Antonio’s WOAI-TV. “There has been a rise of hate speech throughout the course of this pandemic.”
But prior to the vote, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, blasted the plan as political correctness run amok.
“This is NUTS,” Cruz wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “SA City Council behaving like a lefty college faculty lounge, triggered by Chick-fil-A & the words ‘Wuhan virus.’ If they want to investigate someone, start with NYT & CNN who both repeatedly (and rightly) referred to it as “the Chinese coronavirus.”
The resolution asserts the coronavirus was not created or caused by any race, nationality or ethnicity.
It also refers to World Health Organization guidance against using geographic descriptors for the virus that could fuel acts of ethnic or racial discrimination.
“Our efforts must meet the indiscriminate nature of COVID-19 with empathy and compassion for all our neighbors,” Nirenberg said.
Businesses and individuals in San Antonio have been victimized due to the coronavirus — including Golden Star, a Chinese restaurant near the city’s downtown, officials said.
“It’s been in operation for almost 90 years,” Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales said, according to the station. “They’re a Chinese restaurant family and they have been threatened. They have been the victims of hate speech and hate crimes, with vandalism and that sort of thing on their property.”
President Trump said in March he might stop referring to coronavirus as a “Chinese virus” if it bothered the Chinese community. Although he said that he would consider ending the term, he didn’t think there was anything wrong with it — arguing it referred to geography, not race or ethnicity.
A waiter serves a group dining at a restaurant that reopened at the River Walk in San Antonio, Friday, May 1, 2020. (Associated Press)
“If you look at Ebola, right, if you look at Lyme in Connecticut, you look at all these different horrible diseases, they seem to come with a name with a location,” he said. “I don’t have to say it if they feel so strongly about it, we’ll see.”
Meanwhile, Asian-Americans reported more than 650 racist acts over one week in March in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, according to data from online reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate.
The forum said incidents varied from attackers spitting or coughing on victims, to victims being told to leave stores or having Uber and Lyft drivers refuse to pick them up.
China has been accused of possibly covering up the coronavirus pandemic, although hate speech against its people differs from possible outrage over actions taken by its government.
Visitors wearing face masks to protect against the new coronavirus walk through the Forbidden City in Beijing, Friday, May 1, 2020. (Associated Press)
Nirenberg said he was aware of several examples of hate speech and subsequent actions taken against people in the city. He added the resolution wasn’t directed at constitutionally protected free speech, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
“Oh no, not at all. What this is, is a statement of values, as we say we’re a compassionate community,” the mayor said, according to WOAI-TV.
The resolution also includes speech directed at the Jewish community, which it says have been targeted with “blame, hate, antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories about their creating, spreading and profiting from COVID-19.”
City council members voted in favor of the resolution 11 to 0.
Texas has seen more than 36,036 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 985 deaths from the virus as of late Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Fox News’ Morgan Phillips and Peter Aitken contributed to this report.
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