Asian-American activists staged several events in and around Boston Saturday to mourn the victims of this month’s mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colo. and to draw attention to the need for an ongoing movement to eliminate anti-Asian racism.
Early Saturday, groups of runners carrying “Stop Asian Hate” signs took to the roads in towns along the Boston Marathon route and then gathered at the Boston Common for a small rally that included a moment of silence for the victims of both shootings.
Hua Wang, chair of the New England Chinese American Alliance, told GBH News the event was organized as a metaphor for the prolonged effort needed to wipe out racism. “This is not going to be a once-and-done event, it’s a marathon,” he said, “so that’s why we choose the theme about covering all 8 cities and towns along the route. It’s a marathon – it’s very important for us to turn this moment into momentum.”
On March 16, eight people were killed including six Asian women at three massage parlors and spas in Atlanta, spurring a wave of gatherings around the country to combat racism against Asians. A week later, a gunman opened fire in a Boulder supermarket, killing ten people including a police officer who responded to the gunshots.
For the Asian community, Wang said, “We are at a crisis moment, but we are thinking: Out of crisis comes opportunity for us to rally around together standing in solidarity and demand action.”
Later Saturday, dozens of people gathered for a candlelight vigil beneath Boston’s Chinatown gate.
Susan Chu, executive director of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association said rising violence against Asians in the U.S. has caused anxiety particularly among the older residents of Chinatown. “I think a lot of elders are certainly very scared,” she said. “They could potentially be a target just going on their daily walk or going to the store. So I think that’s sort of frightful, especially since they are the most vulnerable.”
While people at both rallies Saturday called for interfaith discussions and partnerships with non-Asian communities to fight racism, pastor Enoch Liao of the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church told GBH News that for many local Asians, just gathering with other Asians can be a powerful experience.
“I think a lot of Asian Americans, especially people growing up here, in this part of the country, unless you come to something like Chinatown, a lot of Asians don’t get to see other Asians and stand in solidarity together,” he said. “So I think this is a really moving and inspiring opportunity . . . I think this can be very meaningful.”
Raymond Cheng of the Benevolent Association told the gathering that they cannot be silent in the face of racism. “We have to fight back,” Cheng said. “There are so many people here today, I believe ‘together’ makes us powerful. So -- everybody fight on.”