EDMONDS — More than 100 people rallied at Esperance Park on Saturday to encourage unity and condemn hate in step with a nationwide movement to end racism against Asian Americans following a series of deadly shootings in Atlanta this month.
Community leaders and elected officials emphasized that people of Asian descent in Snohomish County routinely face discrimination, though it’s seldom violent. Some shared first-hand experiences.
Event organizer and local resident Will Chen said his mother-in-law, a China native who has lived in the United States for more than 50 years, was recently told to “go back to her country” while walking to his home.
Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright recalled being teased and excluded as the only Japanese-American child at her school.
Joomi Kim, executive director of the Korean Community Service Center in Edmonds, has learned to dread the question, “Where are you from?”
Because often, whoever is asking doesn’t think she’s truly American, she said.
“The injustices have always been there, but increasingly, it is shifting from covert actions — like ‘Where are you really from?’ — to overt violence,” Kim said. “We Asian Americans are used to keeping a low profile. Going about our ways, working hard. But it’s taken six Asian American women dying in one day to get people to pay attention to this.”
On March 16, six women of Asian descent and two other people were killed by a gunman on a shooting rampage at Atlanta spas.
Asian-American organizations across the country have warned that racist attacks are intensifying amid the pandemic, which was first identified in China.
Chen, an Edmonds City Council candidate, held a banner that said “Hate has no home here” as he helped lead a silent march around the park. The demonstrators walked to the soft sound of children at play on the playground, interrupted by an occasional barking dog.
Mukilteo Police Chief Cheol Kang, whose family emigrated from Korea, encouraged people to report hate crimes in a written statement that was read at the event.
“Racist speech, crude comments, and racially motivated microaggressions have no place in our society, let alone our community,” wrote Kang, who couldn’t attend the rally. “While we have not had any specific racially motivated crimes reported, that does not mean that they aren’t occurring.”
Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, Mukilteo City Council members Riaz Khan and Louis Harris and Everett City Councilwoman Liz Vogeli were among the other elected leaders there.
“Hate has always lurked among us. But it’s becoming louder, uglier and more forceful,” Vogeli told the crowd. “Direct action against hate can be full of love or fierce and bold. You can choose one or another, but you must act.”
Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.
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