National rallies held on anniversary of Vicha Ratanapakdee death seek justice for anti-Asian hate victims

  • The synchronous demonstrations, known as the Asian Justice Rally, were held in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco this past weekend.
  • The event took place on the anniversary of the death of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man who succumbed to his injuries after being shoved in San Francisco.
  • Organizers and participants encouraged the Asian American community to speak up against the hate and violence that continues to victimize vulnerable members and remains underreported two years into the pandemic.

Hundreds showed up at a national rally held across multiple cities on Sunday to demand justice for the victims of anti-Asian hate.

The event, known as the Asian Justice Rally, simultaneously took place in six major cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

“At the very core, it’s about acknowledging [that] hate crimes happen to Asian Americans,” activist Justin Zhu said, according to KGO. “We will not be silent about the hate crimes against us.”

Led by Stand with Asian Americans (SwAA) and APAs vs. Hate (AvH), the rally was held on the first anniversary of the death of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man who succumbed to his injuries after being shoved in San Francisco.

His alleged assailant, identified as Antoine Watson, who was 19 at the time, has pleaded not guilty to the murder and elder abuse charges he is facing.

The incident, which was caught on surveillance video, became the primary catalyst of Stop Asian Hate — a movement that improved Asian American visibility but needed much more support.

“The tiny window of visibility we had with the ‘Stop Asian Hate’ movement, it really was just a glimpse of what Asian Americans feel every day, that kind of pervasive disrespect and casual contempt at our parents, our languages, our families,” Charles Jung, executive director of the California Asian Pacific American Bar Association, who is also with AvH, told the Associated Press. “What we really want is to encourage Asian Americans to tell their stories and finally break the silence.”

Ratanapakdee’s daughter Monthanus Ratanapakdee also attended the San Francisco rally, which was held in the neighborhood where her father was killed. She was joined by Mayor London Breed and other local leaders.

David Chiu, SF Mayor London Breed, Monthanus Ratanapakdee, and San Francisco City Attorney come together to march in the Asian Justice Rally in SF that memorializes the one-year anniversary of the fatal attack of 84-year old Thai grandfather Vicha Ratanapakdee. Image via Rozette Rago/Asian Justice Rally

“I know people are scared about anti-Asian hate in the community, and we must demand action for justice and all human rights,” she said at the event. “Please be strong in memory of my father.”

The nationwide rally also honored other victims of violence such as Michelle Go, Yao Pan Ma, Than Than Htwe, Noel Quintana, Nancy Toh, Juanito Falcon, Yong Zheng, Pak Ho, Ee Lee, Shane Nguyen, Younghee Cho, John Huynh, Ngoc Pham, Xiao Zhen Xie, Danny Chen and Christian Hall.

Participants also remembered those who died in the Atlanta spa (Soon Chung Park, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue and Hyun Jung Grant) and Indianapolis FedEx (Jaswinder Singh, Amarjeet Johal, Jasvinder Kaur and Amarjit Sekhon) mass shootings.

Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition tracking anti-Asian incidents, reported a total of 10,370 cases between March 19, 2020, and Sep. 30, 2021. Experts believe actual incidents are far higher due to massive underreporting, which is often attributed to language barrier, social stigma or distrust in the justice system.

As a result of his anti-Chinese rhetoric, former President Donald Trump has also been blamed in part for the surge in anti-Asian attacks. Last May, President Joe Biden enacted the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to accelerate the investigations of such crimes.

Image via Sam Cheng

“The death of Vicha Ratanapakdee was a rallying point for the Asian American community in our effort. Unfortunately, anti-Asian violence and xenophobia continues to this day,” SwAA and AvH said in a news release.

“Individuals, including the elderly and students, are subject to harassment and discrimination. These rallies reflect the community’s continued calls to end racism, for sustained intervention and investment by public officials, and inclusive solutions to combat hate and prejudice.”

Watch the full rally below:

The Coalition for Community Safety and Justice, which was started in 2019 and comprises four organizations serving the San Francisco Asian American community, called for the city’s “robust resources” be used to “match the needs of our communities … to keep all of us safe” in a statement provided to NextShark.

We call upon our City leaders and our communities to continue making investments and supporting compassionate and comprehensive solutions, such as increased funding for culturally-competent victim wraparound services, street outreach, and ambassador programs,” the statement read. “We further ask for the strengthening of policies to ensure City agencies develop in-language and culturally-competent responses when incidents do occur and to support cross-racial solidarity programs.”

Featured Image via Sam Cheng (left), Rozette Rago/Asian Justice Rally (right)

 

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