By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
January 28, 2021, marked a dark and eerie day for Asian Americans when 84-year old Thai grandfather Vicha Ratanapakdee, was racially and violently assaulted whilst on a morning walk in San Francisco. Following this attack, many more Asian Americans reported being verbally and physically attacked all across the country.
To honor the memory of Ratanapakdee and the hundreds of other victims of anti-Asian hate across the country, a series of ‘Asian for Justice’rallies were held Sunday to remember the death of Ratanapakdee in six US cities – San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. The social media hashtag #BREAKTHESILENCE was trending on Twitter with hundreds turning up en masse.
In the San Francisco neighborhood where Ratanapakdee was attacked, daughter Monthanus Ratanapakdee marked her father’s death by making an emotional speech and reminded everyone present about who her father was, how he loved his grandsons, how he was the driving force behind her pursuing her education and career and how she wants her father remembered.
“My father, Vicha, was like a friend to me, we liked to talk about everything, we are here today to mourn his passing, said Monthanus Ratanapakdee, standing at a podium near the spot where her father was attacked.
“I know my father, Vicha, is looking down on us today. I really want my father’s death to not be in vain, I wouldn’t want anyone to feel this pain.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed, spoke at the rally and reflected on the impact that Ratanapakdee’s death has on the Asian American community in the city.
“I know when we saw that video, it was heartbreaking, it still is heartbreaking, I still feel a lot of the pain and the hurt and, sadly that never goes away,” the mayor said.
“Today we come together knowing that there have been other victims, sadly, in this city and in this country. We come together to remember them, to make sure they are not forgotten.”
In Los Angeles, The Thai Community Center (Thai CDC) held a rally attended by around seventy activists, community members, leaders, and senior citizens to honor the memory of Ratanapakdee and the impact his death signified for the country. Like San Francisco, Los Angeles has also been the scene of a number of anti-Asian hate incidents including the stabbing death just a week ago of 30-year-old Seanna Widjaja, killed at a 7-11 convenience store in Koreatown.
US Congressional Representative Judy Chu (CA-27) joined the rally and spoke about the horror she felt.
“I would never forget the moment when I heard about Vicha’s death. An 84-year-old, who was known in the San Francisco neighborhood as someone who took his morning walk”, Rep Chu said speaking from the podium.
“But one year ago on this day that came to an end when Vicha was attacked by someone motivated by anti-Asian prejudice.”
Chu, continued to talk about how Ratanapakdee’s death made Washington DC finally listen to her and other AAPI Senators and Representatives calling for action on the issue of anti-Asian hate.
“In the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), which I lead, we have been fighting anti-Asian hate in DC for over two years by way of letters, press conferences, putting up legislation etc, with really no response. This changed with Vicha’s attack and the Atlanta spa shootings, which woke up the lawmakers in DC and this became the turning point.”
One of the event organizers for the Los Angeles rally, Jerry Raburn from the Thai Americans Against Hate & OCA-Orange County Chapter, spoke to AsAmNews about the sentiments felt at the rally, and how he felt proud of the LA Thai community coming together in unity today.
“I felt there was a sense of somber. Today in LA and across the country is a solemn occasion to remember Vicha”, he said.
“I felt so much pride in my own community that we were able to come together in solidarity and demand justice for the Asian Americans who lost their lives due to anti-Asian hate”.
Raburn also reflected on some concerns he has as an activist, private citizen, and voter on the lack of action from those in office in combatting anti-Asian hate.
“In my personal opinion, I didn’t really see any actions or steps proposed at the rally by those in office in our city. They all showed their support and solidarity today, which is important, but no concrete proposals”.
“Public officials need to do something. I credit Congresswoman Judy Chu and the work she does through CAPAC, but that is only one group of those in the public office doing something. More can be done, and this concerns me because it is our elderly and our most vulnerable who will feel scared of being attacked in public”.
The STOP AAPI Hate Reporting Center has recorded over ten thousand incidents of anti-Asian hate across America since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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