Hundreds in Chinatown plead for ‘safe, quiet community’ at vigil for 2 men killed in apparent robbery

Memorial for 2 men killed last weekend brought out friends and neighbors from Chinatown who said they are fed up with crime in the community.

SHARE Hundreds in Chinatown plead for ‘safe, quiet community’ at vigil for 2 men killed in apparent robbery
A woman cries as hundreds of mourners gather for a vigil Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in a parking lot in the 2000 block of South Wells in Chinatown, where Huayi Bian and Weizhong Xiong were shot to death last weekend. Bian and Xiong were killed during an apparent robbery, for which a suspect  faces two counts of first-degree murder.

A woman cries as hundreds of mourners gather for a vigil Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in a parking lot in the 2000 block of South Wells in Chinatown, where Huayi Bian and Weizhong Xiong were shot to death last weekend. Bian and Xiong were killed during an apparent robbery, for which a suspect faces two counts of first-degree murder.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Hundreds of Chinatown neighbors and friends of two men killed during an apparent robbery last weekend gathered Wednesday night to honor their lives with traditional Chinese ceremonies.

They lit hundreds of candles, which lined the fence outside an apartment building in the 1200 block of South Wells, along with flowers and various signs reading “We demand justice,” “Asian lives matter” and “All lives matter.”

One by one, several close friends of Huayi Bian, 36, and Weizhong Xiong, 38 — who were killed in theSunday attack — spoke in Chinese about the community’s loss and to express they are fed up with crime in the neighborhood.

“We’re here to protect our community,” said Darien Lin, a Chinatown resident who has been best friends with Bian and Xiong for about a decade. “They were very friendly and caring people that the world lost. We still can’t believe it.”

Lin said Bian and Xiong had both moved to the U.S. from Shenyang, China. They both have families who still live in China that they haven’t seen in several years since moving out of the country.

A donation box collecting money for their families, who relied on Bian and Xiong for assistance, was passed around during the vigil.

Lin said he had just been out to dinner with Bian and Xiong before the attack happened. Bian lived in Chinatown, but Xiong and his wife were in town from Minnesota to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Xiong’s wife, 44, also a victim in the attack, was too distraught to attend the vigil, Lin said.

Bian, Xiong and his wife had just parked in the lot of an apartment complex around 2:10 a.m. Sunday when they were allegedly confronted by Alvin Thomas, who was charged this week with fatally shooting Xiong and Bian. Xiong’s wife heard the shots and crawled under a nearby vehicle, avoiding the gunfire, prosecutors said during Thomas’ bail hearing Tuesday.

Thomas was arrested about 10 minutes after the shooting, prosecutors said. He was ordered held without bail.

“Why are people like that still walking around outside?” Lin asked during the vigil Wednesday. “Crime has gotten worse in Chinatown for the last three or four years, and we just want a safe, quiet community.”

A Chinatown resident confronted Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez at the rally, whose ward encompasses Chinatown, demanding that the city take more action against crime in the neighborhood.

“Why do we have to wait until someone dies to take action? The robberies have been going on here for many years,” she said. “The city is very reactive, but we need permanent, preventative solutions.”

Sigcho-Lopez said the Chicago Police Department had already seen a spike in neighborhood robberies and increased patrols in Chinatown, and the city would be installing new cameras to improve surveillance in the neighborhood.

“We’re doing everything we can to bring more resources or violence prevention to Chinatown and the 25th Ward,” Sigcho-Lopez said.

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