By STEVE LEIGH
— SEATTLE, March 13 — Several hundred Asians and their allies rallied today in Hing Hay Park against the recent wave of hate crimes against Asians in the U.S. These attacks have been prompted in part by Trump’s racist descriptions of COVID-19. In 2020, about 2800 reports of racism and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) were reported to Stop AAPI Hate*. The trend seems to have grown since Trump left office. The attacks have increased even as the COVID crisis has begun to ease.
The rally in Seattle was sponsored by several AAPI groups and was organized mostly by young people. The banner at the front read “AAPI Against Hate.” Other prominent signs included, “Hate is a virus,” “Stop Anti-Asian Hate,” and “Racism is a Virus.”
Speaker after speaker expressed their anger and anguish at the recent spate of physical attacks, often against the elderly. They expressed their determination to stand up to these attacks. “I am proud to be Asian. I won’t accept or excuse these attacks. We need to defend ourselves by any means necessary!” were typical expressions.
Looking at the history of Asians in the United States, there were different emphases. Some stressed the contributions of Asians to American history, citing the building of the transcontinental railroad and the role of Asians in the military. “Immigration made America great,” said one speaker.
Others looked more at the negative side of U.S. history. “Over 100 years ago, the Chinese were driven out of Seattle,” one speaker pointed out. Another speaker discussed the Chinese Exclusion Act of the 1880s and yet another Japanese internment during World War II. One young man noted that his family had lived in the U.S. for five generations, over 100 years, and he was still treated as a foreigner. A young barrista noted that a customer had demanded that another barrista make his coffee “because he didn’t like the color of my skin.”
Several speakers called for united struggle against hate across racial lines, acknowledging that racism against all BIPOC people needed a collective response. Solidarity was a common theme.
The rally was addressed by several young organizers and also elected officials. Following the usual pattern, government officials were quick to call out blatant racism. Democrats have criticized Trump’s open bigotry while doing little to address institutional racism. For example, one of the speakers was Democratic King County Executive Dow Constantine, who noted that people of all races built Seattle. He countered people who tell Asians to “go back home” that “ this is their country!” Yet Constantine faces continual agitation against systemic racism at the County’s Metro Transit System, which he did not address. He also presides over a county with vastly disproportionate incarceration of people of color and homelessness, which also heavily targets BIPOC people.
The politics of the rally was mixed. One widely applauded statement came from one speaker who said, “It’s a beautiful day for a revolution!” Others in contrast argued for lobbying elected officials and reporting crimes to the police.
After the rally, the protesters marched several blocks through the largely Asian International District to support from drivers and passersby. As many speakers noted, this is only the first of many actions, since attacks on Asians are unlikely to go away soon.
Photo: Alan Berner / The Seattle Times