On Thursday, four black girls were charged in a racially motivated attack against Asian high school students riding the SEPTA train.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office charged the teen suspects, whose ages range 13 to 16, with aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation, criminal conspiracy, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, and disorderly conduct.
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Chief Thomas Nestel III said Thursday that authorities could identify the four girls through the transit systems 28,000 cameras, several tips, and a parent who reported that their child was one of the victims involved in the attack.
Authorities said the attack happened around 3:30 p.m. near the Erie Station on the Broad Street Line and was captured on a mobile device video on Wednesday. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the girls were yelling racial slurs at three Asian teenage boys who are also students at Central High School in Philadelphia. During the video, the attackers can be heard accusing the Asian boys,” “jump[ing]” them and trying to “throw them off the train” “when a fourth teenager, an 18-year-old student who’s also a senior at the same high school, stepped in to defend her peers.
“You wanna jump my people?! You gettin’ jumped too!” one girl said during the clip.
The attackers turned their attention to the fourth teen, started banging her head against the subway doors, and continued attacking her while she was lying on the train floor. Nestel said the young girl was able to seek help from SEPTA police at around 3:45 p.m.
“She was a hero; she stepped up and told the girls to stop,” said Nestel of the fourth Central teen who intervened. She suffered no serious injuries. “Then she became a target.”
“It’s clear they were picked on because they were Asian,” Nestel said at a news conference on Thursday, per Philly Voice.
The female victim’s aunt told WFSB-TV the attack on her niece was “cold-blooded” while translating during an interview with her niece’s mother.
“Her daughter supported Black Lives Matter,” the aunt continued. “I want to say Asian lives also matter.”
The teen girl’s family informed members of the Chinese community that they’re awaiting tests to find out the severity of her head injury, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
According to a Cal State University Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism report, the train attack incident is one of the latest in the rise of anti-Asian attacks and hate crimes committed by people of all races that began around the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the report, anti-Asian hate crimes in major US cities had increased 164% during the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, members of the Asian community have complained about anti-Asian hate attacks in the Philadelphia region, which tripled between 2019 and 2020.
Central High School senior Carlie Zhang, 17, told reporters she is a friend of the 18-year-old female victim. Zhang said the attack has shaken up her school’s sizeable Asian community after 18 months of virtual learning, and the pandemic has created hostility toward Asian Americans.
” A lot of us are really struggling, traumatized,” Zhang said. “We see our own friends, people who look like us, getting hurt, getting beat up.”