After a rise in random attacks on the Asian community, organizations are protesting anti-Asian sentiment on a nearly weekly basis.
By Solomon O. Smith, Political News Editor
LOS ANGELES, CA — In response to the violence aimed at Asian Americans across the country, groups gathered throughout California this week to support the #StopAsianHate movement.
Similar to the George Floyd protests of last summer, large organizations and small youth coalitions organized protests in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County and other metropolitan areas. In Los Angeles on March 27, starting in the heart of Koreatown, red shirts emblazoned with the hashtag #StopAsianHate gathered on Olympic Boulevard preparing for the short march to proceed to the corner of Normandie. There, a stage with a banner spanning the backdrop bears the names of over 20 associations supporting the rally, including the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles, Mark Ridley-Thomas — the Los Angeles city councilman of District 10 — and Assemblyman Miguel Santiago.
Two main subjects were the through line for speakers — former president Donald J. Trump’s racist rhetoric and the blaming of the pandemic on members of the Asian community. Many in the Asian community point to the former president’s use of racist terms like “kung flu,” when referring to the pandemic, as a catalyst for anti-Asian sentiment.
The message of unity was, at one point, interrupted by boos for one particular guest, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchel Farrell. He lauded his Native American roots as he spoke about unity between different communities. The audience, however, booed him for his actions from the day before using police officers and riot gear to clear out Echo Park of its homeless inhabitants. The closure of the encampment has been a point of contention between the city, the local community and activists.
“I know even though he's possibly in the Native American community,” said Terrance Dowell, an activist in the crowd. “I still don't think he stands in solidarity with all Angelenos, especially those who are more underprivileged like those in the homeless community, so it just falls on deaf ears for some of us.”
Youth involvement, similar to the Black Lives Matter movement, is vital. The majority of those present were young, many bringing their small children with them to the march. For one family, it was about showing their children about how to stand up for themselves.
Allies from outside of the Asian community also showed up to support those protesting, standing alongside them in the sun. Black Lives Matter shirts could be seen throughout the crowd. Many signs promoted support for several different communities. Chay Champ brought her daughter Firdaus Niel, 10 years old, to the rally to learn about the plight of other Americans fighting racism. She and her daughter have participated in several other rallies and marches as well.
“What did I get out of doing this today,” said Niel, “is that, like, it's smart to know who you need to fight for and who you need to be against.”
This momentum was carried throughout the week as both in-person and virtual protests were scheduled. On April 2 in Liberty Park, Koreatown, a memorial service was held in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander, or AAPI, women and various organizations have released statements or held virtual vigils for those who died in the March shooting.
Yesterday, two young women — Chloe Serrano, 15, and Ahsha Jones, 16 — held a rally in front of the Fullerton City Hall in Orange County in protest of anti-Asian sentiments and white supremacy. The rally was held by Melanated Youth, a coalition the two of them created after meeting during a Black Lives Matter rally in June. They, along with a board of other high-school aged youth, aim to create a community orientated mutual aid; something they see as binding for the different populations in their communities. Serrano had been an ally to Jones during the George Floyd protests, and now the roles are reversed.
“So for me, it's great to actually have Chloe here as a catalyst for my education on how I can be a good ally for Asian Americans,” said Jones, “especially since our coalition preaches intersectionality.”
Both Jones and Serrano have used various resources on the internet from different organizations, like BLM, to learn how to put together a coalition. According to Jones, it was not as hard as she initially expected. Their organization’s linktree has several resources from a membership form to a primer on how to help stop AAPI hate. For Serrano, the movement has a personal weight. She has considered the danger for her own family members as anti-Asian sentiments rise in the country.
“Oh yeah, definitely I think for me, participating in Black Lives Matter protests and other events over the summer, it was definitely done with solidarity,” said Serrano in reference to her Asian American heritage, “but it's a bit different. For example, my ally-ship and activism towards the Black community is, of course, different from me.”
A small turnout was a good start for the group as they see it as a way to “start getting their message out,” according to Jones. They intend to keep protesting and showing up to give their support wherever they can. Their activism has even pulled in members of their own families and for now, they are looking to the future by aligning with other organizations.
“We're trying to build relationships with other organizations like ours,” said Jones, “so we're gonna partake in their protests and promote their mutual aid as well.”