Rallies in L.A., other cities decry anti-Asian hate on anniversary of killing

Anti-racism demonstrators holding a banner
Hundreds of people rally in San Francisco to remember the death of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee and protest anti-Asian attacks and harassment.
(Janie Har / Associated Press)

On their final night together, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee and his daughter watched the news and traded goodnight kisses on the cheek. The next morning, Ratanapakdee was assaulted while on a walk in San Francisco and died, becoming yet another victim of violence against people of Asian descent in America.

On Sunday, hundreds of people around the nation, in the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Chicago, took to the streets to mark the one-year anniversary of Ratanapakdee’s death and to say they would stay silent no more about attacks on and harassment of Asian Americans.

Such incidents escalated sharply after the coronavirus first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China. More than 10,000 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were reported to the Stop AAPI Hate coalition from March 2020 through September 2021. The incidents involved shunning, racist taunting and physical assaults.


“The tiny window of visibility we had with the Stop Asian Hate movement, it really was just a glimpse of what Asian Americans feel every day, that kind of pervasive disrespect and casual contempt at our parents, our languages, our families,” said Charles Jung, an L.A. employment attorney and executive director of the California Asian Pacific American Bar Assn.

Vicha Ratanapakdee
Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84, was killed last year during his morning walk in San Francisco.
(Monthanus Ratanapakdee)

“What we really want is to encourage Asian Americans to tell their stories,” he said, “and finally break the silence.”

In San Francisco, Monthanus Ratanapakdee, 49, paid tribute to her father at a rally in the neighborhood where he was killed. Ratanapakdee, who was raised in Thailand, feels compelled to speak out so that people don’t forget the gentle, bespectacled man who doted on his young grandsons and encouraged her to pursue her education in the U.S.

Nearly a third of Asian Americans in the San Gabriel Valley said they or their family members have experienced anti-Asian hate during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey found.

Jan. 13, 2022

“I really want my father’s death to not be in vain,” said Ratanapakdee, 49, a food safety inspector with the San Francisco Unified School District. “I wouldn’t want anyone to feel this pain.”

She was joined at the rally by San Francisco Mayor London Breed, local leaders and several hundred people.


“It’s been traumatizing to see this again and again happen to people who look like you,” said Natassia Kwan, an attorney and organizer of the rally. “Today, we’re going to say it’s not OK for our elders and women to be pushed into subway tracks, to be killed, to be beaten. We deserve better.”

The nationwide rallies demanded justice for Asian Americans who have been harassed, assaulted and even killed in alarming numbers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Feb. 18, 2021

In San Francisco and elsewhere, news reports showed video and photos of older Asian people being robbed and knocked down, bruised and stabbed on public streets. Preliminary data show that reported hate crimes against Asian Americans in San Francisco surged from nine victims in 2020 to 60 in 2021. Crime statistics don’t tell the whole story, however, because many victims are reluctant to report, and not all charges carry hate-crime enhancements.

High-profile victims nationally include Michelle Go, 40, who died after a mentally unstable man shoved her in front of a subway in New York earlier this month. In March, a gunman shot and killed eight people at three Atlanta-area spas, including six women of Asian descent. There’s disagreement among officials whether those attacks were racially motivated, but the deaths have rattled Asian Americans, who see bias.

Organizers say Sunday’s rallies were to honor victims, stand in solidarity and demand that more attention be paid to anti-Asian discrimination. But organizers say they also wanted to spark conversation in a community where both longtime Americans and newer immigrants are often lumped together as forever foreigners.

Vicha Ratanapakdee had encouraged his eldest daughter to move to the U.S. more than two decades ago to pursue a master’s degree in business at UC Berkeley. He and his wife were living with their daughter, her husband and the couple’s two sons, now 9 and 12.


The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations on Wednesday released a special report on anti-Asian hate crime in LA County in 2020. The report revealed that anti-Asian hate crimes rose 76% from 25 to 44 in 2020, the largest number of anti-Asian hate crimes reported since 2001.

Oct. 20, 2021

He was on his usual morning walk when authorities say Antoine Watson, then 19, charged at him and knocked him to the ground. Ratanapakdee died two days later, never regaining consciousness.

“My mom told me that day was the best day for my father. He was happy to go out,” said Monthanus Ratanapakdee. “But it was a bad day for us, because he never came back again.”

San Francisco Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin has charged Watson with murder and elder abuse but not with a hate crime, frustrating the family. Watson’s attorney, Sliman Nawabi, has said that his client, who is Black, was not motivated by race and that the assault stemmed from a mental breakdown.

The brutal attack, caught on surveillance video, has galvanized Thai immigrants, said Chanchanit Martorell, executive director of the Thai Community Development Center in L.A., which participated in Sunday’s rally. The assault, and the overwhelming support from other Asian American communities, has made Thai immigrants rethink their place in the U.S., she said.

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April 8, 2021

“It really sparked this consciousness ... that they’re part of something larger,” Martorell said.

While there’s much more to do, the country has come a long way from 1982, when two white men in Detroit upset over the loss of auto jobs to Japan fatally beat Vincent Chin, says Bonnie Youn, a rally organizer in Atlanta and board member of the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Assn.


A judge sentenced the two men to probation, saying they weren’t the kind of people to go to prison.

Compare that to the March 16, 2021, shootings in the Atlanta area, Youn said, when journalists worked to make sure the names of six slain women were pronounced correctly and their stories told with sensitivity.

In San Francisco on Sunday, Monthanus Ratanapakdee and the mayor led a short chant-filled march to the house in front of which her father fell. Flowers marked the pavement.

He loved the U.S., Ratanapakdee said, and would want people to “raise their voice.”

“I know people are scared about anti-Asian hate in the community, and we must demand action for justice and all human rights,” Ratanapakdee said. “Please be strong in memory of my father.”