“Fuck the masks!”
That’s how a group of Subhakar Khadka’s Uber passengers responded when he asked them to put on masks, in keeping with the rideshare company’s COVID policy. Then, they coughed on him, seized his mask, and pepper-sprayed him.
Khadka, 32, who’s from Nepal and has been in the U.S. for eight years working to support his family, picked up the three riders in San Francisco at about 12:45 on March 7, according to KPIX 5.
Dashcam footage shows them yelling racial slurs at Khadka, then ripping his mask off and trying to take his phone. During the assault, the video shows one passenger saying, “And I got corona.” After finally leaving his car, one of the riders sprayed heaps of pepper spray into Khadka’s passenger window as the crew walked away.
The driver said his race was the reason for the attack.
“If I was another complexion, I would have not gotten that treatment from them,” Khadka told KPIX. “The moment I opened my mouth to speak, they realized I’m among one of them, so it’s easy for them to intimidate me. Since you were born and raised here in the United States, don’t think the other person is less human.”
Hate crimes against Asians have skyrocketed over the past year. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, anti-Asian crimes rose 149 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. The majority of these crimes are happening in coastal cities like San Francisco.
Khadka filed a police report on the matter and police are now investigating the incident, according to HuffPost. After multiple attempts to contact Uber, Khadka received a $120 cleaning certificate, according to KPIX 5.
According to Uber’s COVID policy for passengers, announced in a company blog titled “When we say ‘No mask. No ride’, we mean it,” passengers are required to wear a mask during the entirety of the ride.
“The behavior seen in the video is appalling. The rider no longer has access to Uber,” an Uber spokesperson told VICE News in a statement.
Khadka has been driving with Uber for three years to help support his family in Nepal, and said he was taken back by the assault.
“I never said anything bad to them, I never cursed. I was not raised that way,” Khadka told KPIX. “You guys are animals to treat other human beings like this.”