Hundreds in LA Rally Against Asian Attacks, Call For Solidarity
Bill Fujioka said as a child growing up in Los Angeles, a week rarely went by when he wasn't taunted or beat up for being a "Jap." Still, he kept his dream of Asian Americans gaining acceptance and respect in this country as he ascended to the top administrator post for L.A. County, overseeing a multi-billion dollar budget.
The past year has shattered any illusion.
Anti-Asian attacks around the country have surged during the pandemic, with racists blaming Asians for introducing coronavirus into the U.S.
Los Angeles has seen reported hate crimes against Asians more than double, from seven in 2019 to 15 last year -- a number that is believed to be an undercount by both law enforcement and community groups.
Speaking to hundreds at a rally against anti-Asian hate in Little Tokyo on Saturday, Fujioka said he has been accosted by strangers accusing him of bringing disease. He fought them off with "vulgar" language, but said that Asian Americans shouldn't have to stand alone, and called on all communities and elected officials to step up.
"Ignoring it, denying its existence, or refusing to speak up, is almost as bad as participating in this disgusting behavior," Fujioka said.
Bill Fujioka, former CEO of LA County, was called Jap & beat up as a kid. He says now during covid, strangers tell him he brought the virus. He asked all communities & officials to take action. Not speaking up “is almost as bad as participating in this disgusting behavior.” pic.twitter.com/iBIezT3UrM— Josie Huang (@josie_huang) March 14, 2021
The rally was organized by 10 local Asian American organizations and hosted in the courtyard of the Japanese American National Museum, which was built near a spot where, during World War II, Japanese Angelenos were made to wait for buses to take them to camps. Here is the link to the livestream.
Join our communities THIS SAT 3/13 @ 3:30PM @JAMuseum for “LOVE OUR COMMUNITIES: BUILD COLLECTIVE POWER” a grounding, healing space in response to anti-Asian violence.— CCED 華埠公平發展會 (@ccedLA) March 11, 2021
ADA accessibility & virtual attendance (strongly advised for COVID safety) deets to be announced via FB event - pic.twitter.com/iNa7J8aDLu
Tiffany "TiDo" Do, an organizer with Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, expressed outrage at the attacks on seniors throughout the pandemic, but also because she believes the media and wealthier Asian Americans were paying more attention to poor Asian elders because some of the perpetrators recorded on video are Black. She said the true culprit is white supremacy, and that more needs to be done about "economic violence" that Chinatown seniors experience at the hands of developers and gentrification.
"Ask yourself, are we making the same noise and paying attention when our elders and families are being evicted from their homes, especially during a pandemic?" Do said.
Several speakers so far from Chinatown’s @ccedLA including Tido who says she’s so “f*cking pissed” that although elders have been targeted thru the pandemic, the media & more privileged Asian Am’s started to pay more attention when video recorded perpetrators who are Black. pic.twitter.com/ILlQpelo0b— Josie Huang (@josie_huang) March 14, 2021
As Do spoke, several men walked through the crowd holding a sign encouraging people to volunteer for foot patrols they are trying to get started in Little Tokyo and Chinatown.
Two of the men wouldn't give their full names because foot patrols are controversial and seen by some in the community as leading to racial profiling. But a third man, David Monkawa, said that's not what is happening.
"We are not anti-Black and we're not vigilantes," he said. "We are trying to protect the people because our current institutions are failing us. And we have to fight because unless we communicate to the public that we're going to hit ... back, we're going to be hit by a lot of racists and a lot of crazy people.
None of the men want to give their full names except for David Monkawa bc foot patrols are a source of controversy in the community, seen by some as anti-Black and vigilantism. He says it’s impt to communicate to racists that Asians “are going to hit you back.” pic.twitter.com/WGUhTwNtvJ— Josie Huang (@josie_huang) March 14, 2021
Saturday's rally was also intended to be a space for healing. Tanny Jiraprapasuke took to the steps of the museum to share her experience with a verbal attack on the Gold Line early in the pandemic.
A man went on a tirade for about 15 minutes as she stayed frozen in her seat, listening to how every disease came from China. In the ensuing months, she's been nervous going out in public, yet she expressed forgiveness for the man and read a tender letter she'd give him if she ever saw him again.
"I saw the pain that overtook you and understood because it is the same pain that I see in all of us who have been dismissed, underestimated, or pressed, oppressed and abused by a system that denies our human dignity," Jiraprapasuke said.
She wrote about how he was wearing an L.A. Kings T-shirt, and how she could tell he was a true Angeleno. "That's enough to tell me that we have more in common than what sets us apart," she said to applause.