Community organizers in Oakland and San Francisco rallied for unity this past weekend, after a surge of violence in recent weeks against Asian Americans in the Bay Area.
Oakland’s Chinatown, where Lunar New Year was being celebrated Saturday, has been a particular hotspot for incidents. On Jan. 31, a 91-year-old was sent to the hospital with serious injuries after being shoved to the ground, allegedly by 28-year-old Yahya Muslim, who police suspect may be linked to at least two other area attacks. The incident, which was caught on surveillance footage, has caused outrage across the country.
In January, a 52-year-old Asian American woman was shot in the head with a flare gun in Chinatown. Residents say it is part of an escalating pattern, including recent incidents in San Jose and San Francisco, that needs to be addressed.
“We can be victims, and we can have empathy. We can understand the root causes of why these crimes are committed.”Nikki Fortunato Bas, Oakland City Councilwoman
“Everyone in my family has a story about being a victim to the issue we’re talking about here today,” Jennifer Tran, the executive director of the Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce, told the crowd Saturday at the “Love Our People, Heal Our Communities” rally at Oakland’s Madison Park. “All of my friends also have stories about being subjected to racial violence as Black and Brown people.”
Put on by the Coalition for Community Safety and Justice, the socially distanced event featured victims of violence, community groups and local officials, talking about watching out for each one another. Speakers addressed issues like racism, poverty and lack of services in communities of color that help lead to violence.
“We know that community safety is fundamentally about two things,” said Ener Chiu, from the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation. “One is the individual and collective relationships we have with each other and the safety that we share. Two is the trust in the institutions that hold our lives.
“Unfortunately, both of those things right now, in this moment, they’re really breaking down.”
Speakers called for more education and unity among various communities, with the conscious will to take care of one another.
“When we come together, amazing things can happen,” said Danny Thongsy, from the Justice Reinvestment Coalition.
Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, whose district includes Chinatown, said the event showed Oakland at its best. She told her own story of being robbed at gunpoint years ago by a young man whose hand was shaking as it held the gun.
“We can be victims, and we can have empathy,” she said. “We can understand the root causes of why these crimes are committed.”
The coalition held another rally Sunday at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco. Tinisch Hollins, co-founder of SF Black Wallstreet, told the crowd it all starts with racism, against which all communities of color should unite.
“Racism is the bedrock of American culture,” Hollins said. “We have to address that. We have to go beyond moments of solidarity and do the deep work of acknowledging and healing, and it starts at home.”