Hundreds of New Yorkers filled Columbus Park in Chinatown on March 21, protesting a rising wave of anti-Asian American hate crimes this past year. The protest came in response to a tragic killing spree that included six Asian women, who were shot and killed by a 21-year-old white gunman in Atlanta, Ga.
Senator Chuck Schumer opened the rally by holding two moments of silence – one for the eight recent victims and another for all the Asian American victims of violence and bigotry in the past year. The Senate Majority Leader encouraged people to speak up when they witness discrimination.
Jack Liang, the founding organizer of the event, said he felt compelled to make the voice of the Asian American community heard. He secured Columbus Park hoping to raise awareness of the racist attacks on his community and spread an uplifting and empowering message.
“Today, we celebrate what our future could look like when we stand united. New York City, we are golden! And we are worthy, worthy of love, worthy to feel safe in our own skin, worthy of protection, worthy of recognition,” Liang said.
Co-organizer Ben Wei reminded the crowd that discrimination was nothing new to the Asian American community and pointed to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Japanese internment camps during World War II, and the brutal murder of Vincent Chin in 1982 in Detroit. Wei also demanded to label the mass shooting in Atlanta as a hate crime.
NY State Senator John Liu, the first Asian American on the New York City Council, told the crowd that more than a year ago, before the statewide COVID-19 shutdown, Chinatown had already experienced an unofficial closure because people stopped visiting parts of lower Manhattan over fears of catching the Coronavirus.
Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang appeared on stage with his wife Evelyn, and said the mass murder in Atlanta hit home, not only because the couple spent a lot of time with the Asian American community in Atlanta but also because Evelyn recently faced racial bias from a woman who told her to stay away from her because she didn’t want “any of her disease.”
Yang said that, among the top items on his agenda, if he were to be elected mayor of New York City, he would fully fund the Asian Hate Crimes Task Force and NYPD and label a hate crime a hate crime.