Local leaders, residents share experiences, denounce anti-Asian hate during Saturday rally, silent march

An estimated 200 citizens turned out at Snohomish County’s Esperance Park on Saturday morning to share experiences, hear speakers and show support for the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community.

Organized by Edmonds resident Will Chen, the event featured an array of speakers including U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and other elected officials, community and youth leaders, business owners, and even the Honorary Consel of the Republic of Ireland John Keanu.

“I am doing this as a citizen and member of the community, and it has nothing to do with any political campaign,” explained Chen, an Edmonds business owner who is also running for city council. “Today’s event provides the opportunity for citizens directly impacted by Asian hate crimes to come together. We need to all come together and denounce hate.”

Chen related a recent incident when his mother-in-law, who has been in the U.S. for 53 years, was walking down 76th Avenue West in Edmonds to her home when a passerby accosted her and told her to “go back to your own country.”

“I continue to have faith that Edmonds is a tolerant and welcoming community, and that this is an isolated event,” said Chen, “but it is especially disturbing when it touches one’s own family.  This is a loving community, and I believe love is the way to cure hate. I embrace our system of democracy and free speech, the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. As we treasure these values, we all need to promote love and denounce hate.”

The event kicked off with a welcome by emcee John Kim, an invocation by Pastor Barry Crane of Edmonds’ North Sound Church, a land acknowledgement, and singing of the National Anthem.

Kim then welcomed Second District Congressman Larsen to provide his perspectives.

“I stand with you as we stand against hate,” Larsen began. “I am saddened and disgusted by the news out of Atlanta, which is sadly just one example of racism and violence directed against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.”

Larsen went on to cite figures compiled by Stop AAPI Hate, which has tracked more than 2,800 first-hand accounts of anti-Asian hate crimes in the past year nationwide — and noted sadly that Washington state ranks third in these incidents.

“This is wrong,” he continued. “Today hateful rhetoric from elected officials, especially the former president, sows division across our country. It is abhorrent. I am working with my colleagues in Congress to address inequities and ensure that everyone can participate freely in our democracy and communities. Every Washingtonian has a stake in equality and justice. I stand with you and others who work against racism, bigotry and xenophobia.”

Larsen was followed by John Keane, the Honorary Consul of Ireland to Washington State, who expressed the strong support of the Irish community.

“I’m an immigrant myself,” he said. “I left Ireland in 1967. I want you to know that the Irish community shares your disgust, anger, sorrow and sense of helplessness. This is simply un-American. It’s not who we are. Violence driven by toxic racism has no place in our city or in our country.”

Subsequent speakers included Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, who noted how that city’s current council is “the most diverse in our history,” and the efforts now underway to increase the diversity of city staff.

Then Mukilteo City Councilmember Riaz Kahn spoke, stating that as a Muslim he has directly experienced ethnic- and religious-based discrimination, and that it has no place in society. He was followed by Mukilteo City Councilmember Louis Harris, who also serves as first vice-president of the Snohomish County NAACP.

Mountlake Terrace mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright also spoke, underscoring both her personal stake and commitment to fighting the current upsurge of hate against Asian Americans and offered the support of the City of Mountlake Terrace in condemning it.

Subsequent speakers included an array of community leaders, activists, elected officials and others, many of whom shared both personal experiences and their outrage around the events in Atlanta and the wave of violence against Asian Americans. Several decried the view of Asian Americans as ‘perpetual foreigners” no matter how long they’ve been in this country or even if they were born here – often expressed as the seemingly innocent question “where are you from,” which automatically assumes “not from here.” Many went on to point out the connection of this with the “model minority” view of Asian Americans as equally racist and demeaning.

“Chinese Americans are just as American as African Americans, European Americans, Korean Americans,” Chen concluded. “Regardless of ethnicity, we are all Americans in one body. Today we come together to support each other and denounce hate.”

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. I’ve never heard anyone refer to themselves as a “European American” . Maybe a good start would be everyone just referring to themselves as Americans versus adding a racial tag to everything.

  2. The beauty of America is that anyone can move to America and (I’d advocate do the work to legally) become American…regardless of heritage. Although, I am beginning to wonder in this day and age of “anything goes” if in fact I can declare and identify as whatever I want – the goal posts continue to move.

    I stand with those who advocate against hate, not because of your skin color but because it is the right thing to do. Both hate and love know no color. Evil and good are non-discriminant.

    It’s time we treat people as equal souls.

    1. Mike, to your point, countries like Japan dictate that one renounce their prior citizenship. There are no US-Japanese so to speak. I was looking for contemporary White-Asians and discovered that northern Afghanistan’s are considered a hyphenated White-Asian.

      I think we all sort of agree that the War on Terror was futile and irresponsible because it wasn’t tangible or well-defined. We can’t practically declare war on something abstract and expect to win that war. I hate Nazi’s. I suppose Wernher von Braun (of NASA) gets a pass for some reason I don’t know. Who’s against me hating Nazi’s? A war on hate seems ridiculous. Every instance of hate must be judged individually on its merits. We can all think of some types of love that are illegal and not suitable for work. Careful thought shows that we really care about tragedy.

  3. First of, congressmen Larson was wrong in stating the Atlanta shootings were racially motivated. They were not. He was a sexual deviant, and that’s why he shout up massage parlors. Secondly, the former president wasn’t racist in saying the virus came from China. Let’s put away falsehoods, it’s detracts from what people came out to protest against.

    1. Kari, there is a weird collective jubilation when a murderer is white. A lot of tweets got deleted after more details came out about Boulder Colorado. Here’s a fun mental exercise. Can anyone think of a tragedy perpetrated by a minority which inspired a vigil or protest by our community? I’m imagining there would be an example, but I’m personally lost for it at the moment.

  4. excerpt from:
    The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions:
    Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois
    January 27, 1838

    At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

    At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

  5. Hate has no place in this community or this country. But until we eliminate humans, we will have hate and ignorance.

    Headlines don’t tell the full story anymore – one must go digging. Thanks to one of my sources for pulling this together…

    On March 18 The Washington Post reported: “Anti-Asian hate crimes have spiked 150 percent since the pandemic began, according to a recent study.”

    The study cited by The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN and other media is from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. The 150% increase in anti-Asian American hate crimes is contained in its “Fact Sheet: Anti-Asian Prejudice March 2020,” according to which the number of anti-Asian American incidents rose from 49 in 2019 to 122 in 2020. So, the entire edifice of hate against Asian Americans is predicated on an alleged increase of 73 incidents.

    Given that there are about 330 million Americans, and assuming a different American was responsible for each of the 122 anti-Asian incidents, that would mean that 1 in every 2,704,918 Americans committed an anti-Asian incident. And “incident” includes perceived slights.

    Not okay – but certainly puts it into perspective.

    With regards to violent acts against Asian Americans, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics from September 2019, blacks have committed the greatest percentage of violent crimes against Asian Americans.

    Facts matter. And what matters even more is that we treat each other with respect.

    Want to solve it? Start celebrating the privilege of being American. We are a true tapestry of God’s finest – and it is all the colors weaved together that make it beautiful.

  6. Matt,
    Thanks for posting the article. I invite everyone to read it. The guy doesn’t sound like a very peaceful person.

    Michael S.,
    I really like this part of your comment – “Start celebrating the privilege of being American. We are a true tapestry of God’s finest – and it is all the colors weaved together that make it beautiful.”

    So, how about it Edmonds, can we see each other as people? And how about living a life of gratitude? We live in a beautiful part of the country. Talk a walk, watch the birds, sit on a bench at the beach and foster a heart of gratitude. Is your cup half empty or half full? It’s the same cup.

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