Following a recent surge of hate crimes and a mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday, March 16, the Long Beach City Council unanimously voted on a resolution condemning racist attacks against Asians and Asian Pacific Islanders during their meeting.
The resolution came hours after news broke of the mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia where suspect Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, was taken into custody after shootings at three different Asian-owned businesses left eight people dead. Six of the deaths were women of Asian descent.
Shaken by the news of the mass shooting, Councilmemeber Suely Saro discussed the rise of harassment and xenophobia against Asian American and Asian Pacific Islander communities.
“We should all be against hate, hate against anyone,” Saro said.
Saro said that since the beginning of the pandemic, the usage of racial slurs against Asian Americans and Asian Pacific Islanders has increased throughout the nation.
“Inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric referring to COVID-19 as the ‘Chinese virus’ or ‘Kung Flu’ has put the Asian and Pacific Islander American families, communities and businesses at higher risk for bullying, harassment and hate crimes,” Saro said. “Unfortunately, many Asian Pacific Islander Americans in LA County and around the nation have been unjustly blamed for causing the pandemic.”
As Saro noted, the Pew Research Center reports that about three in ten, or 31% of Asian Americans, have been the subject of slurs or racial jokes since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.
Saro also discussed the heroic work of Asian health-care workers during the current COVID-19 health crisis.
“Nearly 31% of the nurses who have died from the coronavirus in the US are Filipinos, yet they only make up 4% of the nursing population,” Saro said.
Locally, there has been an increase in violent acts against the AAPI community.
In October 2020, a video of Long Beach resident Lena Hernandez went viral where she was caught on camera spouting xenophobic expletives at an Asian American woman at a Torrance park.
Hernandez was later charged with battery for a separate incident in October 2019 when she physically attacked a bystander who attempted to intervene when Hernandez was verbally assaulting a custodian at the Del Amo Mall. She was arrested but released the next day with zero bail, under a special schedule set to lower the rate and spread of the coronavirus.
“We must stand in solidarity and support [the] AAPI community, and condemn these hate incidents and crimes which perpetuate racism, discriminatory treatment, hostility and violence,” Charles Song, co-chair of Equity for Cambodians said during public comment.
Saro also mentioned the hate crimes against Mathew Leung and Vicha Ratanapakdee.
Leung, a 51-year-old Asian American elementary school teacher, was brutally beaten at a Rosemead bus stop with his own cane. Using his hands as a shield to protect himself, Leung lost a portion of his fingers during the racially-ignited attack.
84-year-old Ratanapakdee, a Thai man, died after being unpromptedly attacked in San Francisco. According to local newspaper SFGate, the daughter of the victim, Kim Ratanapakdee, said her father was violently attacked because he was an elderly Asian man.
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“As we slowly recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and four years of heightened xenophobia and racism, California has an opportunity to recommit its value and deliver for the community members who have suffered the most from these tragedies,” Song said during public comment. “As we avoided hate crime from spreading into our beautiful and most diverse city we must create a culture of respect and acceptance for all members, regardless of their background.”
Mayor Robert Garcia took the opportunity to speak about his family ties to the Asian community during the meeting, mentioning how his sister is half Thai and how his father’s partner is Japanese.
Going into his family’s history, Garcia explained that their family name is actually “Chen,” originating from his great-great-grandfather, who immigrated to Peru from China as a laborer. The mayor described that Garcia was the name his great-great-grandfather was given by his “owner” and was eventually passed down to him.
“It’s a part of my family, it’s who I am,” Garcia said. “I just want to share with Councilwoman Saro [that] of course we all stand together on this issue, and anything that we can do to show our solidarity and support in the days and weeks ahead I think we will do so.”
If you or someone you know is the subject of a hate crime, community members are encouraged to call the City’s non-emergency line at 562-435-6711. Residents can also notify Long Beach Human Dignity Officer Teresa Gomez. In an emergency situation, residents are advised to call 911 to seek immediate help.
For community members who do not feel comfortable calling the police line, they are free to contact the Asian Pacific Policy Planning Council which is an organization that can provide multilingual assistance to victims.
The next Long Beach City Council meeting will occur next Tuesday, March 23 at 5 p.m. via teleconference.