Madeline Barker, 47, allegedly screamed ‘go back to where you came from’ at four young Asian women in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan on 11 June
Madeline Barker, a 47-year-old from Florida, was taken into custody on Friday after a passerby recognised her as the woman in the now-viral video and tipped off police.
The footage shows the woman harassing four young Asian women in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan on 11 June and screaming at them to “go back to where you came from”.
Dressed in a bright fuschia outfit and oversized sunglasses, the woman then appears to pull out pepper spray and spray it on her victims.
She then fled the scene, leaving one of her victims in so much pain that she was unable to open her eyes for around 30 minutes.
The victims, four friends in their 20s from Queens, told Eyewitness News that they were enjoying Saturday afternoon with friends in Chelsea when the woman suddenly confronted them in the middle of a public plaza.
Ms Barker allegedly told the women “you guys are trying to harass me,” one of the victims said.
The group said they told the woman they weren’t trying to bother her, with one of them even apologising to her.
But the woman then allegedly launched into a racist tirade telling them to “go back to where you came from” and “you don’t belong here”.
One of the victims and a bystander pulled out their phones to record the escalating incident.
At one point, an Asian man not known to the women walked past and Ms Barker allegedly also pointed at him and told him to “take your ***** back to your country”.
Ms Barker then allegedly walked over and pepper sprayed the four women in the face.
“It was so painful. I couldn’t open my eyes for about 30 minutes,” one victim said.
The NYPD launched a hate crimes investigation and asked for the public’s help in tracking down the perpetrator of the racially-motivated attack.
Following her arrest on Friday, Ms Barker was charged with two counts of assault as a hate crime, two counts of attempted assault as a hate crime and four counts of harassment as a hate crime.
She appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court for her arraignment on Saturday where she was held on $20,000 bail.
Prosecutors had argued she was a flight risk because she lives in Florida and she failed to turn herself in during the week-long search.
She is next due in court on Thursday.
The attack comes amid a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes across New York City, believed to be driven at least in part by the anti-Asian rhetoric pushed by the likes of Donald Trump during the pandemic.
In the last year ending 31 March, there were 110 hate crimes against Asian people in the city, according to NYPD data.