A large, diverse crowd of more than 200 people gathered at San Francisco’s City Hall Sunday to rally in support of the Asian community in response to recent violent attacks and fears of rising hate crimes and prejudice.
Organized by the Coalition for Community Safety and Justice, the “Love our People, Heal our Communities,” event was called to condemn violence in the community and call for culturally-relevant resources and support for crime victims and Asian American communities, as well as better cross-cultural communication and healing. It was attended by a number of elected officials as well as many nonprofit and community leaders.
Eddy Zheng of the New Breath Foundation, one of the groups in the coalition, said the event was intended to build unity and focus on the needs of the community.
“We want to center the survivors, those who have been harmed, and we want to ask for resources to support those people,” Zheng said. “We want to condemn all the violence against our elder sand our women and our youth, not only in person but online and on social media.”
The rally was the second held this weekend and followed one in Oakland, where several attacks in Chinatown have spurred widespread outrage and fear in the local community. In San Francisco, dramatic video of a Jan. 28 fatal attack on 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee has circulated widely on social media, prompting an angry response and a social media campaign prompting many users to change their profile pictures to a photo of Ratanapakdee.
None of the incidents are being charged as a hate crime, and there is no evidence they were racially motivated. However, even before those incidents, many Asian residents saw a rise in hate crimes and verbal attacks, which the Stop AAPI Hate project has worked to document.
“Especially in the wake of Covid there have been attempts to blame China and Chinese people, and that racist rhetoric endangered Asian Americans. We also have had a period that has been very anti-immigrant, that has been racially divisive,” said Cynthia Choi, a co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action.
The result, Choi said, is an “atmosphere of fear” in the community.
“With these recent incidents, whether they’ve been racially motivated or not, what we do know is that it is having a devastating impact on our community,” Choi said.
The coalition is calling for The City to increase bilingual and culturally appropriate resources for supporting crime victims and for crime prevention programs such as unarmed community ambassadors, as well as for more cross-cultural dialogue and support between the Asian American and African American communities to avoid the sort of scapegoating and demonization that often dominates online discourse.
Zheng said the group also wanted to shift the focus from an emphasis on a law enforcement response and increased surveillance to a focus on building community resources in areas such as housing and education that will help prevent crime and support residents.