Part of nationwide efforts to honor those killed in Atlanta mass shooting
On Saturday evening, San Gabriel Mission Playhouse hosted about 400 people — many of whom were Asian American — who carried signs with messages like “Stop Asian Hate” and the flag of the United States as they prepared to pay tribute to the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings last Tuesday.
Arcadia, which is also has a large Asian American and Pacific Islander population like San Gabriel, had representation Saturday from Councilmember Paul Cheng. The solidarity between area cities was unmistakable.
Marking the tragic loss of eight people in the Atlanta shooting spree, six of whom were women of Asian descent, the somber vigil reflected more than half-a-million Asian residents’ fears and concerns about racism in America.
Stop AAPI Hate has received more than 500 reported incidents in the first two months of 2021. Between March 19, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2021, the organization received 3,795 complaints. Verbal harassment and shunning accounts for the two largest proportions of total incidents reported, 68.1% and 20.5% respectively. Physical assault accounted for 11.1% of all incidents.
Throughout the country, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders turned to social media to vent their frustration. The hashtag #StopAsianHate was a trending topic on Twitter hours after the shootings last Tuesday.
Exasperated that the suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, was not immediately charged with hate crimes, many people in San Gabriel felt that Atlanta law enforcement officials were not addressing the real issue of racism — evident to the Asian American community as well as other ethnic groups.
Chin Ho Liao, mayor of San Gabriel, was present along with Councilmember Jason Pu. The councilmembers spoke of a brighter future and joined in silent witness as they held candles commemorating the lives lost.
“Law enforcement needs ‘some training understanding what a hate crime is,’ said Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. ‘This man identified target businesses owned by Asians,’” reports ABC News.
Huang says Long “was very clearly going after a targeted group of people.”
For the past several weeks, Asian Americans have questioned how to deal with a recent wave of assaults — many like the recent attack of an elderly woman in San Francisco — that have coincided with the pandemic. The virus was first identified in China and former President Donald Trump, and others, used racial terms to describe it — including the “China virus” and the “kung flu.”
A large police presence including officers from San Gabriel, South Pasadena and Arcadia was welcomed by the organizers. In a similar vigil in Alhambra, the police were not welcomed.
Police chiefs in the San Gabriel Valley issued a joint statement expressing support for the AAPI community and condemning hate. “We stand united to condemn any hate and bigotry within our communities. We seek to mitigate any direct, or indirect demoralizing impact amongst the residents, visitors and businesses within our region,” the SGV Police Chief’s Association said. “In response to recent reports, we are committed to protecting the Asian American Pacific Islander communities by countering misinformation, cultivating compassion and holding those accountable for inflicting fear and hurt within our communities. We urge everyone to stand united by immediately reporting these types of incidents to their local police departments. We are all committed to fulfil this endeavor and understand that an attack against the AAPI community is an attack on all of us with the San Gabriel Valley Community.”
There were no incidents reported and the vigil was peaceful.