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‘I can’t suffer in silence anymore’: Demonstrators remain vigilant in protests against anti-Asian attacks

A demonstrator holds signs that read "End white supremacy now!" and "Asian women rise up!" at a rally.
Tina Zeng, 31, of Alhambra, holds two signs as she and other demonstrators gather to speak out against anti-Asian racism Sunday on Garfield Avenue in Alhambra.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Maria Tran had felt the sting of anti-Asian racism before, including the time “an older white gentleman on the street told me to go back to Vietnam” and the many references to “the China virus” by former President Trump.

But the pain and outrage caused by last week’s killing of eight people in Georgia — including six women of Asian descent — were too much for her to bear alone.

On Sunday, she joined scores of others at a vigil and rally at Village Green Park in Garden Grove to protest racially driven hate and violence. The Orange County demonstration was one of several held across California throughout the weekend.

“The shooting this week has harbored some really strong feelings of anger and sadness for me,” said Tran, 25, of Long Beach. “I know my community is hurting as much as I am.”

Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, is charged with murder in the shooting deaths of eight people Tuesday at two spas in Atlanta and another 25 miles away. The victims were Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Daoyou Feng and Xiaojie Tan.

Long confessed to the killings but said they were not racially motivated, investigators said. He claimed to have a sex addiction and said he was attempting to eliminate sources of temptation, officials in Georgia said.

The killings have focused attention on a sharp increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans since coronavirus shutdowns began last March. Thousands of Asian Americans have faced racist physical and verbal attacks and shunning, according to a report released last week by the group Stop AAPI Hate.

The report documents 3,795 such attacks from last March through February, noting that the number probably significantly undercounts incidents because many were not reported to the group. Women reported 68% of the incidents.

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Sunday’s rally in Garden Grove followed others this weekend in Atlanta and across the country, including in Southern California and the Bay Area. A candlelight vigil was held in Alhambra on Saturday night followed by a demonstration Sunday.

The crowd in Garden Grove spanned all ages and ethnicities. Many sat cross-legged in the grass as a succession of speakers took to the stage to decry racism and touch on other topics including income inequality and defunding the police.

Aileen Pham, 17, came to the Garden Grove rally with her sister, Adrienne, 22, their mother, Lensey Pham, and a family friend, Henry Lutz, 22.

For too long, Aileen said, she has quietly put up with racist gestures from high school classmates and others who seem to think it is a joking matter.

“I can’t suffer in silence anymore and just accept this treatment,” she said. “It is time to do something about it.”

Joe Miller, a music teacher at Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, said he came to show support for his Asian American students, who make up about 30% of the student body.

“The plight of Asian Americans and the violence is disturbing,” he said. “Being here today is literally the least I can do.”

A diverse crowd of about 60 demonstrators also gathered Sunday afternoon in Alhambra, at Main Street and Garfield Avenue.

Helen Tran, who organized the rally with her cousin Raymond Tran, said she and others drew inspiration from last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests — even though the two groups’ issues are not identical.

“I think we’re similar in that a lot of the power and momentum we feel now is connected to the Black Lives Matter protests last year,” she said.

“I think it’s important for Black and Asian communities to work together on this because at the end of the day, it’s about dismantling white supremacy and speaking out against white racism.”


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