On March 21, thousands of protesters gathered in Columbus Park in Manhattan’s Chinatown. They were there to condemn the racist and sexist mass shooting in Atlanta that targeted and took the lives of six Asian women.
Act Now to Stop War and End Racism and the Party for Socialism and Liberation joined protesters of all ages, backgrounds, experience levels, and classes as they rallied for over four hours to demand an end to anti-Asian violence.
Estimates of crowd size varied from 5,000 to 10,000. They could not fit into the park, and gathered on both sides on the other side of the fence. The crowd was overwhelming Asian and young, with many other New Yorkers who had come to show solidarity.
Holding signs emblazoned with slogans like “Call it what it is: racism and sexism,” and “Anti-Asian racism is not new,” protesters drew attention to the long history of violence and exclusion that Asian Americans have faced.
Others held signs that listed the names of the victims, reminiscent of the uprisings for Black lives that gripped the country this past summer. When organizers from an earlier Black and Asian solidarity rally in Union Square that morning took the stage as speakers, protesters erupted into cheers and loud applause.
Despite a speaker lineup dominated by politicians, large portions of the crowd rejected calls for retaining police presence in the city. When former presidential candidate and current New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang suggested creating a police “task force” to address the increase in anti-Asian violence, protesters spontaneously erupted into chants of “Defund the police!” Likewise, when a representative from the New York City Fire Department took the stage to call for more police, protesters immediately responded with similar chants. Met with such strong and decisive resistance, organizers cut the speaker’s time short and moved on.
Anti-Asian violence at home linked to US policy abroad
Gauging the energy from the crowd, ANSWER and PSL members coordinated a concurrent speakout in a separate part of the park at the midway point of the rally.
At the speakout, ANSWER member Amanda Yee and other members linked anti-Asian violence and misogyny at home to U.S. military conquest abroad. “You have to dehumanize people first in order to kill entire populations so recklessly,” Yee declared. “There’s a direct link here to the image of the fetishized Asian woman to U.S. imperialism. These wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Laos destroyed entire villages and cities, destroyed economies and families, and forced women into sex work to serve American soldiers. That’s where that image comes from.
“Now the U.S. war machine has set its sights on China,” Yee said, “For the past year, the U.S. has launched a campaign to vilify China to blame it for the COVID pandemic in preparation for imposing economic sanctions or even a military confrontation. This escalation is directly related to the sharp rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and assaults we’ve seen. So I’m telling you, if we want to stop anti-Asian hate, we have to de-fund the defense budget, defund the Pentagon!”
ANSWER and PSL members then marched around the park to chants of “Hey hey! Ho ho! Anti-Asian violence has got to go!” and “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
The march returned to the original rally as ANSWER member Rachel Hu took the main stage to speak. Hu urged protesters to recognize the damaging influence of the U.S. government’s anti-China policies on Asian Americans, which had been unaddressed by the other rally speakers. “We have to connect that this aggression against China, this endless propaganda we have seen, is part of the United States war machine,” Hu explained. “It’s part of the United States waging war on our communities. And we have to stand up and we have to fight back!”
Join ANSWER in their national day of action against anti-Asian violence on March 27, 2021.