Asian Americans in Irvine, California have come together to protest against a plan to build emergency homeless shelters in the city, arguing for the protection of their neighborhoods and families.
Hundreds participated in the demonstration at the Orange County Hall of Administration last week, many of whom were Chinese Americans who gathered after days of organizing.
They were joined by immigrants from South Korea, India, the Middle East, and Mexico. Some Whites were also present, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The diverse opposition came together through social media and community groups. WeIrvine, a Chinese internet services company, shared the word about the shelter plan to some 40,000 members online.
Co-founder Richard Xiaoxiang Lu told the LA Times:
“We didn’t do it alone. No one knows the county officials, and most of us have never been to their meetings. But we had people from every community say, ‘I need to go there’ to speak up. Asians are usually quiet, you know. Not this time.”
Parrisa Yazdani, a mother of Japanese and Iranian descent, set up a Facebook page called “Irvine Tent City Protest” and worked with WeIrvine to disseminate information.
“People who I never knew were calling me night and day and asking to do whatever they could to help. It’s really proof that we are a community dedicated to a mission, like never before,” she said.
Irvine has around 258,000 residents, 45.7% of which are Asian. Whites and Latinos make up 38.2% and 7%, respectively, as per the U.S. Census Bureau.
The city, where 65% are college graduates, has a median home value of $740,000. The LA Times described it as “affluent, fast-growing and ethnically diverse.”
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The protesters, most of whom arrived in buses, rallied to protect the city from the perils of homeless camps. They had “No Tent City” and “No Homeless in Irvine” written in posters.
Orange County officials bowed to the backlash, but will likely come up with a second proposal in weeks, according to the Orange County Register
. The three-city emergency homeless shelter plan was approved in March 19 and would have been built in Irvine, Huntington Beach, and Laguna Niguel.
The shelters are designed for the homeless who are being evicted from Santa Ana river camps, where nearby cities of Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Fountain Valley have complained about of filth and crime.
In pushing against the camps, demonstrators claimed that they were not being elitist. Alex Lu, a pharmaceutical scientist, said:
“I’m not closed-minded. I want to listen to all sides, and when I went to the protest I tried talking to the homeless advocates. We really welcome hearing about what they need.”
The protestors have drawn backlash on social media, with many going to Twitter to voice their disdain.
For now, many of the homeless stay in motels through vouchers. But when these expire and oppositions persist, their fate remains in limbo.