Japanese jazz pianist was beaten in a New York City subway station, requiring him to be hospitalized, according to the New York City Police Department and the man’s family.
During the attack on September 27, Tadataka Unno was exiting the West 135th Street station in Harlem when he was confronted by a group of young people blocking the turnstiles, according to a police report.
Police said that after Unno tried to avoid them, he was pushed from behind and two people began yelling at him.
“I had no idea why I was shoved. One of them pointed at me and said, This guy just pushed me’ to her peers. This was not true,” Unno wrote in a statement to CNN. “One of the others said, ‘She’s pregnant,’ as if to imply that I had just attacked a pregnant person.”
One male began beating Unno, followed him, and continued to attack him, causing Unno to fall to the ground. As he fled the station, the group followed him, beating him repeatedly while bystanders watched.
Unno says that the group called him a “Chinese mtherf*ker.”
“I felt like they were hitting me to release stress,” Unno wrote in his statement. “It felt like they were just hitting me until they felt done, and that they would continue to beat me until I was either unconscious and severely injured, or dead.”
Unno thought he was going to die, he wrote, until he began thinking of his wife and 4-month-old son “and thought that I couldn’t die.” A nearby woman then intervened and called an ambulance, Unno wrote.
Unno said he suffered a complex fracture in his shoulder and arm, which required an operation. He is completely unable to use his right arm, which he relies on for his livelihood as a jazz pianist.
“I might never play again,” he wrote. “The trauma, both physical and mental, are severe, and I have no timeline for a full recovery.”
No arrests have been made, according to the NYPD.
Unno is a jazz pianist and composer who has played at the Kennedy Center as well as New York jazz clubs including Village Vanguard, Dizzy’s Club, and the Blue Note. Unno has lived in New York City since 2008, according to his website.
A note on his website reads: “Thank you everyone for your prayers, love and tremendous support for Tadataka and Family.”
Unno recovering from surgery
Jerome Jennings, a longtime friend of Unno and the conductor of The Juilliard School’s jazz orchestra, started a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $122,000 as of Sunday evening, well above the original $25,000 goal.
Unno is currently recovering from surgery, his wife Sayaka said.
Jennings says that most of the GoFundMe donations were between $5 and $100, and stemmed mainly from the jazz community, which has been hard-hit by Covid-19 restrictions.
“I’m deeply grateful for this. In a difficult time, this support is like a shining light for me,” Unno wrote in his statement.
Jennings said that, in the wake of the attack “everybody showed up for Tadataka,” who he described as “a kind, beautiful person.”
“I thought that was just a testament to his character and also a testament to the people doing the right thing,” Jennings said. “We need all the slivers of light as possible.”
In August, the NYPD announced the creation of an Asian Hate Crime Task Force after an increase in racist attacks against Asian Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I was astonished by how many messages I’ve gotten from Japanese people, who say they have had very similar experiences in the past, and that they empathise with the pain and the fear,” Unno wrote, adding he at least partly attributes the attack to anti-Asian sentiment due to what he says are President Donald Trump’s “words that cast Chinese people in a negative light.”
“This incident made me feel deeply the issues of the social standing of Asians, and the marginalization we experience,” Unno said.
The NYPD said it is not currently investigating the attack as a hate crime, but some local politicians have condemned the attack for being motivated by hate.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a tweet that the incident was “horrific.”
“We can’t tolerate acts of hate and we must fight bigotry on all fronts. My thoughts are with Tadataka Unno and his family as he recovers,” Stringer said.
Rep. Grace Meng, who represents the 6th Congressional District in Queens, said in a Twitter post that the attack was “hard to see…in the city where I grew up and am now raising my boys.”
“My thoughts are with Tadataka Unno and his family as he recovers. Hate — against AAPIs and against any community — has no place in New York,” Meng said.