- “It is unconscionable and enough is enough,” says Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, speaking about the rise in anti-Asian crimes.
New York Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-Woodhaven) was among several lawmakers and community leaders who rallied outside Queens Borough Hall last month to support Nepali Lyft driver, Ashish Sapkota, who was attacked by a passenger.
Narrating the incident at the March 26 press conference, Sapkota said he picked up a couple at 59th Avenue around 7:30 p.m. on March 16. As soon as they got into his car, they began fighting. He told them to stop fighting, but things got so heated that he had to pull over on the side of the Van Wyck Expressway. That’s when the passengers attacked him, and all of it was caught on his dash camera. The footage shows a passenger telling Sapkota, “Take me to my address before I hurt you, bro.” He also took Sapkota’s phone and told him to drive or else he would throw it out. “I got a $60,000 chain, I don’t want your phone,” the man said. Sapkota kept driving to Hillside Avenue, where the passengers eventually got out of the car.
Speaking at the press conference Rajkumar said she is appalled by the alarming rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, both in the country and in New York City, as per the Queens Chronicle. “It is unconscionable and enough is enough,” she said. She added that while “focus on mental health is vital in preventing attacks, education on the past, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, is also key.”
Sapkota, who immigrated to the U.S. from Nepal five years ago, had only been driving for the ride-share company for a month. The father of a 5-year-old and a husband whose family is dependent on him, has not returned to work and is suffering from nightmares.
Lyft issued a statement saying that the attacker is no longer able to book rides with the ride-share company, the Queens Chronicle reported. “Safety is fundamental to Lyft and the behavior shown is unacceptable. We have been in touch with the driver to offer our support, removed the rider from the Lyft community and are in contact with law enforcement to assist with their investigation,” a company spokesman said.
“No Taxi and Limousine Commission driver should have to live in fear that the next person who enters their car might attack them,” Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) said during the press conference. Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) also addressed the press conference.“An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” he said.
Police are currently investigating the incident, but are not calling it a hate crime, according to the Queens Chronicle report. A GoFundMe account titled “Help for Assaulted Lyft Driver Ashish Sapkota” raised $1,639 of its $30,000 goal as of April 4. It was started by Sonam Ghising Lama, an organizer with Independent Driver Guild IDG.
Last month, Subhakar Khadka, a Nepali Uber driver was attacked in San Francisco by three women passengers after he reportedly asked one of them to wear a mask.