IN light of the recent uptick in violence against Asian American communities in the Bay Area, a coalition of organizations held rallies in Oakland and San Francisco during the first weekend of Lunar New Year.
The two days of action, entitled “Love Our People, Heal Our Communities,” was held at Madison Park in Oakland’s Chinatown on Saturday, February 13 and on Valentine’s Day at San Francisco’s Civic Center.
In the past two months, videos have gone viral showing violent attacks perpetrated against Asian Americans, particularly elderly individuals.
Among the victims in San Francisco is Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84, who was fatally pushed to the ground by a 19-year-old suspect in late January as he went out for his daily walk.
In Oakland’s Chinatown, a slew of incidents have been recorded, including one showing a 91-year-old being hospitalized with injuries after a man followed and shoved him.
About 700 participants, including other communities outside of Asian Americans, gathered in Oakland on Saturday in a show of solidarity.
“Our immigrant and refugee communities feel so alone, so isolated. That’s why we are here today. To show them this love, this multiracial and intergenerational solidarity,” said Alvina Wong of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.
Elected officials in attendance included Councilmembers Carroll Fife, Dan Kalb, and Sheng Thao, as well as City Council President and District 2 Representative Nikki Fortunato Bas, who shared the stage with a multiracial slate of activists and organizers.
Speakers also offered recommendations and alternatives to policing, such as funding the Chinatown Ambassador Program, which hires formerly incarcerated individuals to build relationships between merchants, residents, and community members and keep watch over the neighborhood; more resources for hate crime victims; and getting to the root causes that contribute to crime.
“This is a time to acknowledge the pain and healing that needs to happen. This is also a moment in time that we must unite within and across communities, races, and cultures. It is clear that there needs to be an investment in long-term community centered solutions in language and culture as well as immediate public health and safety measures,” said Julia Liou of Asian Health Services.
In San Francisco, the slate of speakers also emphasized long-term, community-based solutions that address structural racism and the inequalities in education, health care access, housing and employment.
“We want real solutions that are not just blaming or targeting other communities of colors. We want our voices to be heard and we want long-term solutions that can provide a vibrant, safe and healthy community for the future generations. I don’t want my kids growing up in this community feeling unwelcome and unsafe,” said Chyanne Chen of Chinese Progressive Association.
Outside of the Asian American community, dozens of Black Americans came out in force in solidarity and shared the histories between the communities.
“We have been struggling for decades because we have put our investments in the wrong places. We cannot incarcerate our way into safety. And we cannot have safety at the expense of one community over the others. We all deserve to be safe and we have to work together to achieve this,” said Tinisch Hollins, associate Director of Californians for Safety and Justice and a co-founder of SF Black Wallstreet.
The weekend of action was organized by Coalition for Community Safety and Justice (CCSJ) — comprised of Chinese for Affirmative Action, Chinese Progressive Organization, Community Youth Center, and the New Breath Foundation — and the Oakland Chinatown Coalition, which represents nearly a dozen groups.
Both coalitions remind community members to report hate incidents on Stop AAPI Hate (stopaapihate.org), which has incident forms available in English and 11 languages like Tagalog. They also encourage donating to the Chinatown Ambassador Program and CCSJ Victims & Survivors Fund, support local businesses in Oakland and SF’s Chinatowns, and volunteer with the Oakland Chinatown Coalition foot patrol.