Elected officials decry rise in Asian hate on anniversary of Thai grandfather’s slaying in San Francisco

“Asian Americans have faced unprecedented hate and violence, particularly against our elders,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth said in a prerecorded speech played at Sunday’s Asian Justice Rally in Chinatown.

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Supporters hold up an image of a lotus flower in a moment of silence during a rally at the Chinatown Chicago Public Library Branch in Chinatown in tandem with other organizations across the US in honor of AAPI victims on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022.

Supporters hold up an image of a lotus flower in a moment of silence during a rally at the Chinatown Chicago Public Library Branch in Chinatown in tandem with other organizations across the US in honor of AAPI victims on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Elected officials and community leaders condemned the nationwide rise in anti-Asian hate crimes Sunday as they commemorated the life of an 84-year-old Thai grandfather on the one-year anniversary of his killing in San Francisco.

The Asian Justice Rally, held at the Chinatown branch of the Chicago Public Library, was part of a coordinated, multicity demonstration honoring Vicha Ratanapakdee, who died after forcefully being pushed to the ground during a daytime attack in San Francisco last Jan. 28.

“Asian Americans have faced unprecedented hate and violence, particularly against our elders,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who, like some other speakers, spoke in a prerecorded video. “We all know that hate crimes against the [Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander] community tend to be undercounted or simply go unreported due in part to the persistent, false notion that Asian Americans are, quote, ‘Not a real minority.’”

“Asian Americans have faced unprecedented hate and violence, particularly against our elders,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who, like some other speakers, spoke in a prerecorded video.

“Asian Americans have faced unprecedented hate and violence, particularly against our elders,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who, like some other speakers, spoke in a prerecorded video.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Even despite that undercounting, Duckworth noted, hate crimes have risen dramatically. Last October, the FBI reported that Anti-Asian hate crimes rose by more than 73% in 2020, far outpacing the 13% overall increase.

Ratanapakdee’s loved ones have insisted that his killing was racially motivated, but 19-year-old Antoine Watson wasn’t charged with any hate crimes when he was arrested in the slaying. The attack, which was captured on surveillance video, was among a series of high-profile slayings that galvanized the country and have been prosecuted similarly.

Last March, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long went on a shooting spree at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area, killing eight, including six Asian women, and wounding another. Long, who pleaded guilty to multiple charges and was sentenced to life without parole, reportedly told investigators that his actions stemmed from his sex addiction and he wasn’t charged with any hate crimes.

The rampage quickly sparked a nationwide movement that brought awareness to the rise in violence against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. But within months, another jarring incident played out in Chicago.

Woom Sing Tse, 71, was gunned down last December as he walked to buy a newspaper near his Chinatown home. The alleged shooter, Alphonso Joyner, fired more than 20 times at him, though prosecutors were unable to pin down a motive.

“Sometimes individuals just do evil things,” Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said during Joyner’s bond hearing.

State Rep. Theresa Mah, a Chicago Democrat whose district includes Chinatown, said Sunday that her constituents “expressed fear and concern during the pandemic as they heard the news of increasing attacks against Asian Americans.” And while she and other speakers detailed the history of oppression faced by those in that community, they sought to chart a path toward broader inclusion.

Mah — who was among a list of speakers that also included Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez — touted the passage of a federal anti-hate crime bill and a state law that requires Illinois public schools to teach Asian American history.

“We must continue to work together to fight for fairness, to demand justice whenever we see injustice, to stand with our brothers and sisters in solidarity as we fight for the same racial justice and to forcefully, vociferously and persistently insist on our belonging in this country,” she said.

Illinois State Rep. Theresa Mah speaks about making communities safer Asian American and Pacific Islanders during a rally at the Chinatown Chicago Public Library Branch in tandem with other organizations across the in honor of AAPI victims Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022.

Illinois State Rep. Theresa Mah speaks about making communities safer Asian American and Pacific Islanders during a rally at the Chinatown Chicago Public Library Branch in tandem with other organizations across the in honor of AAPI victims Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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