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A Man Yelling ‘COVID-19’ Attacked a Chinese Tea Shop in Dupont With Pepper Spray

Police are investigating a suspected hate crime at Valley Brook Tea

The front of the building at Valley Brook Tea in Dupont Circle
The front of the building at Valley Brook Tea in Dupont Circle
Valley Brook/Facebook

A man shouting “COVID-19” and “Chinese tea” used pepper spray to attack the owner of Valley Brook Tea, a shop in Dupont Circle that brews leaves from China’s Fujian province, this week in what a D.C. police report describes as a “suspected hate crime.”

A public incident report from the Metropolitan Police Department shows an officer responded to a complaint from Valley Brook owner Yunhan Zhang, on the morning of Tuesday, November 10. Zhang shared surveillance video of the incident in a Twitter post. By 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, it had been retweeted 230 times.

On the video, a man can be seen charging into Valley Brook and repeating “COVID-19,” then telling Zhang to “take that mask off.” Zhang tries to tell the man to “go away.” The man says, “You go away, motherfucker,” before reaching into a backpack and pulling out a can of pepper spray. In subsequent tweets, Zhang shows pictures of residue on his clothes.

“I got sprayed on my face, arm, cloth,” he writes. “Some got into my mouth. I was choking badly when I called 911. I’m not injured. However the burning has not stopped after hours.”

Zhang tells local CBS affiliate WUSA9 that the attack was clearly “racially motivated.” The tea shop owner also says this is the second time he’s been assaulted, including an incident in July when he says a person slapped him and stole from him. Inside Valley Brook, Zhang displays a map of his native Fujian province in southeastern China, where the shop sources oolong, black, and white teas, along with various teaware.

“It seems we’re the only business that keeps getting harassed and attacked in this neighborhood,” Zhang tweeted. “We cannot stay in business if this happens on a weekly/monthly basis. Please help us identify this individual.”

Organizations tracking anti-Asian incidents in the United States have reported a rise in discrimination during the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic. President Trump and conservative media outlets have called COVID-19 the “China virus,” which inflames bias, researchers say.

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