Local Leaders Respond to Anti-Asian Violence, Rallies Planned this Weekend

by Elizabeth Turnbull

In response to a disturbing recent rise in hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans locally and across the U.S., Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and other local leaders this week condemned attacks in Seattle and Washington State. A series of marches and rallies are planned across King County this weekend calling for investment in and resources for Asian communities and solidarity across racial lines with the victims and families of those who have suffered from the attacks.

“We saw this ugly trend surge a year ago, when COVID-19 first emerged in our state,” Inslee said in a written statement. “One year later, we have a vaccine for the virus — but racism is still running rampant. We must all condemn the acts of hate and violence displayed in the rising incidence of anti-Asian hate crimes in both Washington State and across the country.” 

Last month, the national civil rights organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Asian Law Caucus, in cooperation with scores of other nationwide AAPI-led and AAPI-serving organizations, issued a statement critiquing responses to the current rise in anti-Asian violence that merely rely on law enforcement. On March 8, the Seattle City Council released a unanimously signed statement expressing solidarity with the Asian American community and stating that the Council is exploring options to invest in communities rather than simply relying on the criminal justice system to prosecute and discipline people responsible for the attacks. 

“We stand with those who are rejecting calls for more policing or punitive measures, which only address the symptoms but do not address the underlying cause of the violence and hate crimes,” the City Council statement said. “We must work to solve the underlying issues of crime and systemic racism that have pitted People of Color against each other. This requires investing in people and in marginalized communities, as well as meeting people’s basic needs like housing, education, and mental health support.”

According to a City Council press release announcing the statement, in 2020, 59 hate crimes were filed with the King County Prosecutors’ Office, a notable increase from 39 in 2019 and 30 in 2018. This year, there have already been seven hate crimes against Asian Americans in the Seattle area, according to data cited in the City Council statement.

In response to various attacks against Asian Americans in King County, including one incident in which a woman in West Seattle was threatened with a realistic-looking airsoft gun in January of this year, communities have organized rallies that will take place this weekend. 

As part of a call to action event, “We Are Not Silent,” the Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Organizing Coalition Against Hate and Bias is holding marches, rallies, and a virtual community leaders convention this weekend. 

On Saturday, March 13, the group is holding a march that will begin at Hing Hay Park at 3 p.m. On Sunday, March 14, the group is holding a rally at Maple Valley 4Corners at noon and hosting a virtual AAPI Community Leaders Convention at 3 p.m. Another rally will be held at Renton City Hall on Monday, March 15, at 4:45 p.m. 

Leaders and community members are pushing for systemic change and real solutions to provide safety for a community that has experienced ongoing racial discrimination since the pandemic began, on top of impacts from the pandemic. 

Though rates for Asian Americans in general are not overly disproportionate, the Emerald reported in January that one-third of U.S. nurses who have died from COVID-19 are Filipino even though they make up just 4% of the nation’s total nursing population. In addition, according to Public Health Seattle — King County, those who identify as Native Hawaiʻian or other Pacific Islander have some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infection in the county. 

In a recent email statement, the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience pointed to the impact of rising incidents of hatred against Asian Americans during the pandemic and pledged to continue telling the stories of Asian Pacific Americans while also pushing back against division within BIPOC communities.

“We understand that all our histories and futures are intertwined and acknowledge the biases of the model minority myth and anti-Blackness within our own community,” the museum said in a written statement released on March 10. “A lack of understanding of these realities only reinforce the discriminatory and colonial powers that pit QTBIPOC communities against each other.”

“These violent assaults feel especially poignant after a year of xenophobia fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, the former president’s racist rhetoric, and the economic devastation that immigrant communities nationwide, like Chinatowns, have had to face,” the museum also said in its statement.  “… We believe we can achieve safety and continue to advance racial and social equity through educational resources and investments in our communities.”

Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.

Featured Image: A flier for the Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Organizing Coalition Against Hate and Bias “We Are Not Silent” events on March 13, 14, and 15, 2021.

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