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San Francisco rally urges action and support for Asian Americans victimized by violence, discrimination

Dozens of people gathered at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza on Sunday to decry the surge in violence and verbal attacks against Asian Americans in the Bay Area and across the nation. Joined by the family of an 84-year-old San Francisco man who died after being shoved to the ground on the street, they issued a call for action and support.

The rally followed a similar protest in Oakland’s Chinatown on Saturday as Asian Americans report an upswing of incidents since the start of the pandemic a year ago.

“When one of us is attacked in this city, we are all less safe,” said Tinisch Hollins, associate director of Californians for Safety and Justice, who cited “disgusting acts of racism.”

joint letter from nearly 70 organizations denounced the violence against Asian Americans. The community is demanding “action from our city agencies and elected officials that we need more investments in survivor and family supportive services,” said Cynthia Choi, co-executive director for Chinese for Affirmative Action.

Advocates seek more intervention and prevention initiatives and school lessons on understanding of children’s cultural histories.

“We have tremendous support from all communities from all faiths,” Choi said. “This is what this whole event is about — coming together and having a shared vision of what safety can look like in all communities.”

Asian American communities feel traumatized and neglected because of the pandemic and living under a presidency that blamed China, said Lai Wa Wu of the Chinese Progressive Association. Former President Donald Trump constantly called the coronavirus the “Chinese virus” and the “kung flu.”

Growing attacks against Asian Americans nationwide include the assaults on a 91-year-old man who was shoved to the ground in Oakland Chinatown this month, and on Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old San Franciscan who died after being knocked to the ground Jan. 28. Family members of Ratanapakdee, whose alleged attacker is in custody, attended Sunday’s rally.

An initiative from Choi’s group and San Francisco State University counts more than 2,800 incidents of hate or discrimination — verbal abuse, violence and more — against Asian Americans nationwide since the start of the pandemic. In the Bay Area, 708 incidents have been reported, including 292 in San Francisco, 58 in San Jose and 55 in Oakland.

“Everyone’s feeling the pain, the anger, the frustration, the fear. … We must remind ourselves and each other to not be reactionary, to not be guided by these negative feelings, to use these feelings and let these feelings inspire us,” said Max Leung, founder of the SF Peace Collective.

Kellie Hwang
San Francisco Chronicle

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