Hundreds of people attended a rally Saturday in Chinatown to support the city’s Asian American and Pacific Islander communities following reports of violence and harassment toward Asian Americans and immigrants during the coronavirus pandemic, including the deadly shootings this month at several Atlanta-area spas.
Activists chanted “stop Asian hate” and “this is what America looks like” as they left Grant Park and marched to the South Side neighborhood.
“When the Atlanta shootings happened, I think that was the breaking point where I was like, ‘You gotta be out there, you gotta say something, you can’t stay quiet any longer,’ ” said Lynn Lau, 33, who organized the march with activists from the group Stop AAIP Hate Chicago.
It was one of a number of similar marches held Saturday across the country.
Rose Moy, 71, from Downers Grove, called the support she saw at the events “amazing.”
“I think it’s very important that we Asian Americans are aware of the situation that’s happening in Georgia and other parts of the country,” Moy said. “It’s such a sad situation.”
Jonathan Schaub drove from Madison, Wisconsin with his wife after they learned about the march on social media.
“Where I grew up there’s not a lot of Asian communities, so even seeing this small pocket of a group, or any size, is really inspirational right now,” Schaub said.
The rally, organized by the Chinatown Security Foundation and Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, was hosted by NBC 5 news anchor Vi Nguyen and Anne Shaw from Midwest Asian Health Associated.
“We should not have to be worried about walking on the street in our neighborhood and worry about being attacked and killed,” AARP Executive Council Member Nancy Chen told the crowd. “So, today you have an opportunity to let all our public officials here know, enough is enough.”
Activists called for an increase in public safety and safety education in Chinatown; for anti-Asian hate crimes to be taken seriously; for a website to be set up to report anti-Asian hate crimes and their outcomes; and for funding for Asian American organizations, with a special focus on senior citizens.
The group also asked legislators to pass the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History, or TEAACH, Act, that would mandate Asian American history to be taught in schools.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle spoke at the rally, as well as U.S Reps. Danny Davis (7th) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (8th).
“Last week, we grieved with the rest of the country, the loss of eight lives in Atlanta,” Preckwinkle said to the crowd. “Yet another senseless act of violence. And despite efforts to gloss this over, make no mistake, this was a targeted act of violence against Asian American women”
The March 16 shootings at three Atlanta-area spas left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent.
Stop AAPI Hate, an advocacy group that reports acts of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning and child bullying against Asians and Pacific Islanders has reported over 3,000 incidents since March last year.
South Loop resident Leah Eva Smith said she hoped the high turnout will help to change in how Asian Americans are treated.
“I hope people will stop saying negative things about Asian people,” Smith, who immigrated from the Philippines when she was 12, said. “We Asian people, we contribute to this country. We want the same thing everyone wants in this country — equal rights.”