Racism Against Two Chinese Men Spreads Panic And Pushes Evacuation At Newark Airport
Passengers who were caught at Newark Liberty Airport on Labor Day were involved in an incident with unnecessary panic when an Alaska Airlines employee mistakenly recognized the two Asian men as terrorists, thinking that they were “suspicious.”
A flight attendant approached the men for allegedly acting suspiciously. The report claimed that the woman screamed “evacuate” and hit an emergency alert button after the men started running. The call to evacuate stirred panic at the gate. Nearly 200 passengers responded to the warning and started dashing to the exits.
Insane situation here at Newark Airport. They just told us all to evacuate and whole terminal scattered. Bags left behind. I initially thought it was an active shooter. Maybe a bomb threat. Confusion and chaos pic.twitter.com/eEAJusrXK8— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) September 3, 2019
Han Han Xue and Chunyi Luo, the two Chinese-born men that became the cause of the incident occurred to be not even acquainted with each other. And as it became known later they were not running away and that it was the airline employee who was acting erratically.
Shooting scare at Newark Airport. Police arrived in seconds. We are all outside on the runway. Terrified . pic.twitter.com/WLDLKb4mKV— Cristina Centeno (@Coach_Centeno) September 3, 2019
Xue and Luo were returning home to San Francisco. Xue was raised in Canada before moving to the United States, while Luo came from China two years ago and is now attending a college in San Francisco.
According to Xue, he first noticed the woman as she pushed her way from behind him. She returned moments later, circling around where he stood.
She then approached Luo who was incidentally standing near him. “Are you scared? Are you nervous?” she then asked him.
But Luo became nervous only because his flight was late, especially when she told him that flights in the U.S. were often delayed. She was standing “too close” to him that is why he made a step a few feet away from her.
Then, she went back to Xue, asking him questions about Luo and what his itinerary was. “Why are you acting suspiciously?” she asked him, before asking more weird questions.
“How much are they paying you?” she reportedly asked him, without clarifying who “they” were. “Did they give you a visa? Did they give your family a visa? Do you make a lot of money? Do you work on Wall Street? Are you on an American visa?” Xue claimed she asked him.
Xue also felt racially harassed and did not involve himself into arguing with the woman so he just joined the rest of the passengers boarding the flight. But she did not back off and warned that she had already called the police.
Newark update: They’re letting us back in the airport. Absolute chaos. People looking for their things. I’ve never seen anything like this. Terrible. Just terrible. pic.twitter.com/N0euy2Jb99— Erin Fors (@forsie) September 3, 2019
Xue was shocked by the entire thing. Then she started talking to the gate agent, who would later announce that boarding would be temporarily halted due to an unspecified issue. Soon after, the female employee began yelling, “Evacuate, evacuate!” After that, she pressed an emergency alarm.
“The moment it happened is really hard to describe,” Xue said. “Everybody started running. It was the most insane scene I’ve ever been in or ever seen.”
Luo said he joined the other passengers eventually because he assumed that there was a shooter.
#EWR It was determined that there was no threat in the Terminal A-3 Satellite. All passengers and employees are being rescreened as a precaution. — Newark Liberty Airport (@EWRairport) September 3, 2019
Steve Coleman, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman, said that the two men were interrogated and later released without charges.
The investigation over the incident is ongoing and the employee that kick-started the panic is still being questioned. Now it is known that that she has bipolar disorder and had just missed her medication.
“There is no danger to anyone at the airport and the situation is under control,” Coleman said.
Meanwhile, the flight to San Francisco was canceled and rescheduled for the following day. All passengers, who had to be re-screened after the incident, were put up in a nearby hotel.