Photo: Around 3,000 people rallied against anti-Asian hate in San Francisco. Liberation photo
On March 27, activists in over 60 cities and towns across the United States held actions in solidarity with the Asian community in the midst of the horrific, racist and misogynist massacre that took place in Atlanta on March 16. The actions were organized by the ANSWER Coalition and took place across the country, from big cities like New York City to small towns like Sequim, Washington. The demonstrations drew significant coverage from mainstream media both nationally and locally.
The protests called attention to the alarming rise in anti-Asian hate crimes over the past year, which correlates to an increasingly hostile U.S. foreign policy toward China. The scapegoating of China for the COVID-19 pandemic and the intensifying preparations for war with the country — in the context of centuries of discrimination against Asian people — has driven this crisis.
Liberation News was there across the United States. Here is a sampling of some of the events that took place.
Atlanta. Approximately 100 people rallied in Atlanta, the site of the March 16 deadly shooting. The demonstration followed several other actions in Atlanta organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which denounced racist, sexist terrorism and the mainstream media’s failure to label the shooting as a hate crime.
San Francisco. Thousands took the streets of downtown San Francisco demanding “Stop Anti-Asian Violence! Stop China Bashing!” Gloria La Riva of the ANSWER Coalition touched on the Chinese response to COVID-19 in her talk at the closing rally in Union Square: “Within days they issued the genetic makeup of the virus so the world could fight it together. And China built hospitals in days, rising up like the skyscrapers we see, but buildings that save lives. And China has sent medical aid to more than 50 countries around the world, and China’s COVID situation in the country is down to almost none because they have a national plan, because they are a great country. But unfortunately the media and the right-wing politicians and those in the Pentagon who want nothing more than to use their weapons; they have whipped up this hatred. … China’s not to blame, and China’s not the enemy.”
New York City. Hundreds gathered in Flushing’s Chinatown for a rally calling for an end to anti-Asian violence and U.S. imperialism. Among the speakers was Nicole Henriquez, the cousin of Christian Hall, a 19-year-old Chinese American who was killed by Pennsylvania State Police in December 2020. Henriquez linked the recent anti-Asian attacks to the struggle against police brutality and state violence.
“We’re sure [the cops] will say they felt threatened, but there was no one on that bridge but Christian by himself, and he was having a mental health crisis,” recalled Henriquez. “We can’t send police when people are having a mental health crisis! He needed a medical response, not a police response! And now my cousin is dead!”
Columbia, South Carolina. Organizers from ANSWER and PSL were joined by activists from the Chinese Association of Columbia, ONE Common Cause, the Fire Voros Coalition and Moms Demand Action for a multi-national, working-class rally. One first-time protester, who did not wish to be named, emphasized the need to “stand up” because “when you attack one of us you attack all of us.” Speakers denounced the rise of racist violence against Asian people and the racist war machine that fuels this rise in terror. Chants included: “Black, Brown, Asian, white. Same struggle, Same fight!”
Los Angeles. Over 1,000 protesters gathered with the ANSWER Coalition at Los Angeles City Hall and marched from City Hall to the Chinese American Museum. Along the way, they stopped before the Japanese American National Museum, to commemorate the struggle for acceptance of Japanese-Americans and all Asian peoples in the United States. A few cafe-goers, inspired by the movement, joined the crowd as it marched along 1st Street.
Beginning with a blessing of the land by Lydia Ponce on behalf of the Tongva people, and a powerful sermon by Pastor Cue from Creating Justice LA and The Church Without Walls blessing the lives taken by U.S. racism, many speakers gave voice to the pain and sorrow felt by the Asian-American community and their supporters.
Sheila Xiao of the ANSWER coalition spoke of the fetishization of Asian women by white supremacists, the Asian migrants who slaved away and died building U.S. railroads, and the Asian-Americans whose homes and lives were taken by organized racist violence here in Los Angeles.
Trudy from Ground Game LA shared their outrage that the killings in Atlanta were portrayed as “a bad day” for the killer, rather than the explicit acts of racism they were.
Jonathan Kim of SEIU UHW condemned the identification of COVID-19 as a Chinese Virus. Maxine Garcia with CODEPINK condemned the scapegoating of China by Joe Biden and Antony Blinken as an attempt to mobilize the U.S. population against a peaceful nation challenging U.S. domination.
David Monkawa from PANA (Progressive Asian Network for Action) and Save Our Seniors recalled the history of anti-Japanese racism during World War II, and the vilification of Japanese cars in the 1970s and 1980s.
Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition speaker Juan José Gutierrez called for solidarity against white supremacists. Moni of Pueblo Sin Fronteras called for unity between all immigrant communities.
Jackie Fernandez, two-time Emmy winning TV personality and actor, spoke up about the fetishization of Asian women and criticized the corporate media’s downplaying of the shooting. She reminded the protesters that they have the power to control the narrative through social media and their activism.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hundreds gathered at Franklin Square in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood for a demonstration organized by the Philadelphia Liberation Center and the Party for Socialism and Liberation in response to a call to action issued by the ANSWER Coalition. The protest was endorsed by over a dozen local organizations. After an opening rally, the crowd marched throughout the neighborhood to an enthusiastic reception. Protesters raised the demand for justice for Christian Hall, an Asian 19 year-old who was murdered by Pennsylvania state troopers. A member of Christian Hall’s family spoke at the opening rally, calling for the unity of all people in the fight against racism.
New Haven, Connecticut. A rally in New Haven drew support from onlookers and was heavily attended by the local Asian-American community. “There is solidarity between the Black and Asian communities,” said Rae Jereza of PSL. “We cannot let the ‘model minority’ myth divide us.”
Chicago. Around 100 people gathered in Chicago’s Chinatown for a speak-out and march. Many speakers focused on the media’s role in perpetuating racism and the need to unite the working class. PSL member Candice Choo-Kang shared her family’s experiences with racism as Guyanese immigrants and emphasized President Biden’s complicity in anti-Asian racism. ANSWER Chicago member Shabbir Manjeed called out the media’s lies and anti-China rhetoric. “They lied to us about Vietnam, they lied to us about Iraq, they lied to us about Syria, they lied to us about ALL of Latin America. We cannot let another lie become a media weapon to drag us into war,” he said.
San Diego. A high-energy march of approximately 100 people in San Diego drew support and participation from passers-by. PSL member Kourosh Karimi-Cherkandi spoke out: “We believe that what happened in Atlanta was not an isolated incident. It can be linked to the deep-seated white supremacy at home and the U.S. imperialism that is happening abroad.”
Providence, Rhode Island. Members of the local Asian community thanked the ANSWER Coalition for organizing this action as there had previously not been any such events condemning anti-Asian violence. Participants spoke out against racism and white supremacy and called for unity.
“I understand that I have to stand in solidarity and support with our Asian community against white supremacy and institutional racism. As people of color and minorities, it is due to my convictions that drive me to believe that we need to stick together when those of us who represent the most marginalized and forgotten are mistreated and attacked,” said Enrique Sanchez, a school teacher and community organizer.
Sequim, Washington. Thirty people participated in a speak-out in Sequim, population 7,000, including members of the S’Klallam and Elwah tribes.
Milwaukee. Community members and organizers congregated in the chilly drizzle to demand an end to anti-Asian violence, violence against women, and white supremacy. Speakers touched on issues ranging from the re-framing of the shooting as a “mental health” issue rather than as a hate crime, the China-bashing in the media surrounding COVID-19, and the violence perpetrated by U.S. imperialism.
Provo, Utah. The protest was greeted with support and encouragement from passing cars and pedestrians. “American wars have been correlated with racism at home. Perhaps not so coincidently against mostly Asian countries,” said RJ Nolan. Kelli Potter added: “The mainstream media pretends that racism is just individual prejudice. … In fact, we know that racism is a system of violence.”
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Around 100 people gathered at a busy intersection in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood to rally and stand in solidarity with Asian communities. Speakers at the action spoke on a range of topics, including the need to dispel the model-minority myth, how additional policing will not solve the problem, and the history of solidarity between the Black and Asian communities.
Although it was left out of the local news coverage, speakers called attention to the history of U.S. imperialism and occupation in Asia and the link between violent militarization of the continent and its people, especially its women, and the increasingly violent attitude to Asian Americans and Asian women today. Bethie Wang of the ANSWER Coalition said: “Our commitment to combat all forms of anti-Asian racism and sexual violence must begin with this understanding of U.S. imperialism and its cultural byproducts. Only by understanding this can we begin to accurately diagnose and fight the ways it continues to harm our communities and the communities we struggle alongside with toward liberation. “
The action ended with a call to extend showings of solidarity following tragedies into permanent mobilization by actively building power in our communities.
Honolulu. Several hundred protesters rallied at the Hawaii State Capitol demanding an end to anti-Asian racist terror.
Boston. About 200 participants attended a rally that was co-sponsored by ANSWER, Boston South Asian Coalition, Stop Asian Hate, and Sign Language Access for BLM. A speaker from the Boston South Asian Coalition said: “So we will not fight Anti-Asian violence with division. We will fight it with a militant multinational working-class movement that seeks liberation for all of us.” The crowd showed their solidarity by cheering when, at the end of the rally, an ANSWER organizer asked if they had been out protesting police terror last summer.
San Antonio. Protesters from ANSWER, SA Stands, Yanawan Herbolarios, The Autonomous Brown Berets, and other members of the community gathered at the Vietnam War memorial for a rally. The action drew attention to the long history of lies and warmongering by the media and U.S. government, and drew parallels between the propaganda surrounding the Vietnam war, the long international struggle against racism and imperialism, and the anti-China bashing of today.
Richland, Washington. Dozens came together to protest hate crimes against Asian people. Signs condemning the violence against Asian Americans were carried up and down the street and attendee Cherissa led chants with the messages of “Stop Asian Hate!” and “Stop White Supremacy!” Activist and demonstrator Briana Spencer said: “Native Americans stand in support of the AAPI,” and spoke about the importance of solidarity among all oppressed peoples. Matt Sakamoto of the PSL called for the “unlearning of racist China-bashing propaganda,” stating that “the rhetoric is dangerous and leads to violence.”
Ithaca, New York. More than 50 people rallied in Shawn Greenwood Park. Participant Jay Joko said: “The entire system — the police, the government — needs to take into account that they are complicit in the violence against Asian Americans, and so that is why I am out here today.”
Seattle. Residents attended a speak-out at Westlake Park in downtown called by ANSWER. They were joined by participants from an earlier rally at Seattle Center.
Washington, D.C. Hundreds rallied under the Friendship Archway in Chinatown, including activists from ANSWER, the PSL, Anakbayan DC, Butterfly for Peace, and student groups representing Black and Asian and Pacific Islander students at the University of the District of Columbia Law School. High school student Clayton Carter said it was important for communities to stand together in defense of “any group that’s hated upon. As a native to the city I feel it is my obligation to be on the front lines with y’all. It’s about supporting each other.”
Hyunsook Cho from Butterfly for Peace connected the murders in Atlanta with U.S. imperialism and the conduct of U.S. troops at their hundreds of military bases abroad. “When I saw the news articles about the spa shooting I immediately connected. It’s Asian women, the fetishization of Asian women, that is part of this crime,” she said.
Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Approximately 100 people gathered at the Alma Mater statue on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus for a stop anti-Asian violence rally. Local activist groups Black Students for Revolution and Homo is the New Homeboy endorsed and shared the event.
Houston. Demonstrators rallied in support of the Asian-American community. Speakers drew a direct link between the corporate media and the State Department’s propaganda war against China and the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.
“Coincidence or not,” said Alan Kim of the PSL, “the Atlanta shooting happened on the anniversary of the My Lai massacre, which was an exceptional case not for the atrocities committed but for being one of the few instances where the indiscriminate rape and murder perpetrated on a daily basis by the U.S. military in Vietnam was brought to light. I would like to remind you that of the 26 [soldiers] tried, only one was convicted. The others were exonerated simply for following orders. … Our lives will not be valued by America until the day where capitalism and white supremacy are wholly eradicated.”
Austin, Texas. Protesters gathered at Austin City Hall, drawing the connection between the rise in anti-Asian racism in the United States, U.S. media demonization of China and the hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops stationed in the Pacific. After the rally, the protesters marched downtown, taking the banner to a visible location near the interstate to bring the message to commuters. The banner was received with overwhelming honks, shouts and signs of support.