SF Bay Area residents rally against rising hate attacks on Asian Americans
OAKLAND, California – Over the Lunar New Year weekend, local community groups, activists, policymakers and Bay Area residents gathered in Oakland Chinatown’s Madison Park to protest rising hate attacks on Asian Americans and to show interracial solidarity. A similar event took place in front of San Francisco’s City Hall.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase of reported assaults against Asian Americans. There were 2,100 violent acts directed towards Asians in between March and June 2020 alone.
More recently, elders within the Asian American community in the Bay Area have experienced violent assaults, most notably 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee who was killed after an assault in San Francisco on Jan. 28.
The increased violence and racism against Asian Americans are seen as direct results of the xenophobia and disinformation spread by former President Donald Trump while he was in office. Throughout the pandemic, Trump fanned the flames by referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus” or “Kung Flu.”
The Saturday rally in Oakland was hosted by groups such as the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Oakland Chapter of the National Brown Berets, and Oakland Chinatown Coalition.
In attendance was a community patrol group based in San Francisco and Oakland called Asians With Attitudes or A.W.A for short, a name derived from the Compton rap group N.W.A.
“James,” founder of A.W.A., says the patrol started as an Instagram page to provide a platform for the Asian American community.
“At first it started off like an entertainment page, then gradually started shedding light on a lot of the racial issues that Asian Americans are facing,” he said.
The page turned into a grassroots movement that aims to physically protect local Asian American communities.
“We out here patrolling, and I’m here to help support my friend right there. He came up with that idea to patrol and he’s using A.W.A. for that also,” said James.
The friend James is referring to is Jimmy, also known as Jay B Singhay on his Instagram account.
“Right now, we just wanna send a message… let people know that we’re really out here patrolling the streets… We’re here to protect the community, that’s what we’re all about,” said Jimmy.
The event in Oakland’s Madison Park, publicized as a vigil to support and uplift the victims of anti-Asian violence mustered a large crowd numbering in the hundreds.
Many of the supporters came with signs calling for unity and an approach to the violence that supports community-building rather than increased policing.
A speaker, Zach Norris, the executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, stressed the importance of keeping each other safe through community solidarity. He described attacks on the Asian American community as stemming from the division sown by white supremacy.
Norris used the game of musical chairs to describe how the system of white supremacy “keeps pulling the chairs away and they got us fighting each other. And that’s absolutely unacceptable.”
Various local groups came out in support, such as Gabriela Oakland, the Black Panther Party Legacy Keepers, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, and the United Peace Corps.
“Robert,” head of the Pacific Savagez Motorcycle Club in Oakland, echoed the calls for unity and support.
“Some of us in the club have Asian descent in them. So, we’re out here just to support and let them know we’re here, to help out the community,” he said.
Amin Cooley, chairman of the Black Panther Party Legacy Keepers, highlighted the importance of Black and Asian solidarity, a point emphasized by other vigil attendees wearing shirts embossed with “Asian Black Unity.”