An Indian transgender activist based in the Bay Area says she was attacked in downtown San Francisco this weekend, sparking an international wave of support on social media.

Anjali Rimi, a 43-year-old trans Hindu woman who lives in the East Bay, was walking with her friend, another trans South Asian woman, in downtown San Francisco late Saturday night after parking on 5th and Mission streets, across from the AMC Metreon, she told SFGATE in an interview Tuesday afternoon. (A San Francisco police spokesperson confirmed to SFGATE that an attempted robbery took place in the area.)

While crossing the street, she says, a motorcyclist “suddenly revved up as we got past half this crosswalk and came at us.” 

“When we tried to get off the crosswalk, I was kind of protecting my trans sister, who is smaller in stature,” she said. 

The details surrounding the attack are hazy for her, in part because she is still on medication to recover from her injured hand. “It became very clear that I was the target and he came and hit me,” Rimi said. “I don’t know what happened. But all I remember is that my right hand hurt like crazy, my bag had torn and things fell out of it on the street.”

A San Francisco police spokesperson confirmed that “an unknown suspect pulled up on a motorcycle and attempted to take her purse” unsuccessfully. The spokesperson added that “there is no indication that this was a prejudice-based incident.” 

Still, Rimi believes that she was attacked because she was wearing a sari out in public. After living “in and out of” San Francisco for more than 20 years, and being unhoused for periods of time in the city, she believes that “San Francisco is a very safe city.” 

“I have walked far worse streets, if I may say so, in San Francisco and I have been fine. So this felt definitely like a violation of my identity,” she added.

Rimi is a motorcyclist herself. She added that since she is from India, she is accustomed to “motorcycle thieves” who steal jewelry and other items from passersby.

“I am there out in community fighting for transgender, immigrant, South Asian rights and equity. And I’ve only ever been received with love and inclusion in the city of San Francisco.”

She posted on Twitter on Sunday morning, shortly after the attack, where she received an outpouring of support online. The tweet has received more than 4,500 likes and hundreds of retweets as of Tuesday afternoon.

Just got hit in San Fran, targeted for wearing a sari and being southasian hindu . Still alive. Bruised. Survived asian hate in this city, wow never thought it would happen to me

— anjali rimi (@anjali_rimi) July 24, 2022

After the attack, she filed a police report with San Francisco police — and the following day, took herself to a hospital near her home in the East Bay. (San Francisco police said that she refused medical attention immediately after the attack.)

“I’m just very grateful that I’m alive. It could have been far worse. I think despite being frozen in that situation, I still had something in me where it said I am not going to let this person violate me this way.”

Rimi said she still sees San Francisco as a “safe haven” and hopes to visit the city again once her hand has healed. That said, she wants her attack to serve as a reminder that people who live and spend time in San Francisco should take care of each other, and its most vulnerable residents, more.

“At that minute, nobody stopped or even bothered to help us. And I really want people to recognize that, you know, we have to help each other out in situations like that,” she said.

San Francisco police data showed a stark increase in anti-Asian hate crimes reported in 2021 from years prior, with 60 incidents reported in 2021 compared with nine in 2020 and eight in 2019. Anti-LGBT hate has also intensified in the Bay Area and nationwide recent months, with out political figures, drag queens and other LGBT people enduring harassment and death threats. Statewide, reported homophobic and racist hate crimes increased by 33% in 2021.

Rimi knows that her identities — as a South Asian, transgender Hindu woman — can make her a target of prejudice and hate. In the past, she’s received criticism and threats, but not ones that have gone this far. And despite some messages she’s received, cautioning her to conceal her identity for her safety, she’s adamant that this attack will not stop her from her activism or publicly wearing sari and other Indian garb. 

“For being an out immigrant, an out trans woman, an out Hindu person, there is a lot of hate for any of those things, but I just tell my trans siblings and my Hindu family, my South Asian family, queer folks, just to be themselves. Don’t be afraid. Don’t let people like this person make us be scared,” she said.