by Akemi Tamanaha, AsAmNews Associate Editor
A crowd of nearly 200 people gathered at Washington Square Park in San Francisco Sunday to demand action after a number of attacks on elderly Asian people.
“It feels like open season on the Asian American community, especially for the most vulnerable segments of our community: the elderly; women; immigrant food delivery workers; nail salon workers; strugging business owners in our Chinatowns, our little Saigons, our Koreatowns and other AAPI neighborhoods…” Christina Chen, a volunteer leader at Compassion in Oakland, said in her opening remarks at the rally.
The rally was organized shortly after a 70-year-old woman was attacked and robbed near her housing complex on in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. Former San Francisco Commissioner Greg Chew, 70, was punched multiple times in SoMa last Tuesday. Asian American community leaders spoke at the park to start the rally, calling for safety in senior homes and the mobilization of police to apprehend suspects.
“Normally this is just a park where people are eating brunch, but for the Asian elders who live here, that is not a reality for them,” Justin Zhu founder of Stand with Asian Americans said at the rally. “They cannot go outside. They cannot enjoy the sunshine in the park because they are being targeted for who they are.”
Zhu demanded “real action, not rhetoric” from San Francisco city leaders and the San Francisco Police Department. He asked that SFPD Chief William Scott host a public town hall within 10 days of the rally so that the community can discuss solutions with the police.
Yume Kim, a writer and educator, also gave a poetry performance in which she told racists to “f*ck off with your anti-Asian hate.”
Rally organizers invited members of the SFPD to speak about measures they’re currently taking to address the anti-Asian violence. SFPD commissioner Kevin Benedicto and Lieutenant Mark Moreno, who is assigned to Central station, spoke on behalf of the SFPD.
“Myself, my fellow officers at Central Station and the entire department condemn these actions, we take these crimes very seriously, very personally,” Moreno said.
Moreno said the department is utilizing its special operations units to increase patrols in the area. It is also working closely with its investigative units to find suspects in the most recent attacks. Benedicto added that the department intends to increase the number of bilingual officers that patrol Chinatown.
Attendees marched around Washington Square Park and down Columbus Avenue after the speeches. They chanted, “Fight Asian Hate! Fight Asian Hate!”
(Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the location of the attack on the 70 year old woman)
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