Attack at DC Chinese tea shop being investigated as hate crime

D.C. police are investigating an attack inside a Chinese tea shop near Dupont Circle on Tuesday as a suspected hate crime.

Store surveillance video posted online shows a man walking in to Valley Brook Tea on P Street Northwest yelling about the coronavirus and cursing.

When shop owner Yunhan Zhang tells him to go away, the man responds, “You go away,” followed by more cursing.

Then, the man starts to spray the shop owner with something.

Zhang said it was pepper spray that got on his clothes, skin, and even in his mouth — and burned for hours.

He’s OK, but his attacker has not been identified.

The shop opened for the first time in February, just weeks before virus-related shutdowns became widespread. Following D.C. government orders, it closed in mid-March and reopened in late May.

Zhang told NBC4 he has had to deal with harassment and verbal abuse again and again during the pandemic.

He wrote on Twitter, “It seems we’re the only business that keeps getting harassed and attacked in the neighborhood. We cannot stay in business if this happens on a weekly/monthly basis.”

In response to the attack, Ward 2 D.C. Councilmember Brooke Pinto wrote on Twitter, “Hate crimes will not be tolerated in our community” and pledged to work with police to identify the attacker and prevent similar crimes.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations also voiced concern about the incident.

“We condemn this apparent act of bias-motivated violence and express the solidarity of American Muslims with the Asian-American community at a time of growing bigotry nationwide,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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