At a busy intersection in Dorchester, along Washington Street in the South End, and on the steps of Quincy City Hall, demonstrators on Saturday demanded an end to racism against people of Asian descent, who have faced increased violence and harassment since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Four demonstrations organized by different groups unfolded throughout the day, including a rally at Peters Park in the South End that culminated with a march to Chinatown and drew several hundred supporters.
“Ain’t no power like the power of people ‘cause the power of people don’t stop,” the marchers called out as they stepped onto Washington Street just after 3 p.m. to begin their journey to Chinatown. The column of demonstrators lined up behind a banner that read, “March For Our Asian Futures.”
Sophia Wu, 38, a demonstrator from the Fenway, held a sign that said, “People need to stop confusing xenophobia with patriotism.”
She said moved to the United States from Taiwan about 18 years ago, but has felt like a foreigner here for her entire life.
“This is something that really affects my life,” Wu said.
The event was organized by Asian Coalition Massachusetts, which a group of young activists formed last month after a gunman killed eight people at Atlanta-area spas, including six women of Asian descent. Investigators have said the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, who is white, confessed to the killings.
Organizers from Asian Coalition Massachusetts said they want marginalized people within the Asian community to have a voice, and they detailed policy objectives including fighting gentrification, cutting budgets for police agencies, and decriminalizing sex work.
“Today is the not the only day that we’re going to resist, right?” Joan Dotruong, an organizer from Dorchester, asked the crowd. “We’re going to resist until we get our demands met!”
The crowd included three sisters from North Andover who attended the event with their parents.
One sister, Grace Truong, 20, held a sign that read, “Not your model minority, scapegoat, fetish.”
Media depictions of Asian women as exotic and submissive have received renewed scrutiny since the spa shootings and revelations that Long claimed to have a sex addiction and targeted what he saw as sources of temptation. The police account of Long’s claims generated backlash, though investigators have said they’re still working to establish a motive, including looking into whether the attacks can be classified as hate crimes.
“No one should be fetishized because of their race or how they look,” Truong said.
Her sister Linzie, a junior at North Andover High School, held a sign that read, “We are not silent. But are you listening?” She said there is a misconception that Asian people are timid.
“We’re being overridden by other voices and we don’t get the space to really promote ourselves,” she said.
Sam Lê Shave, a volunteer with the Asian American Resource Workshop, spoke out against immigration policies that harm the Asian community.
“As we’ve seen it play out through racist policies throughout history, time and time again, here in the un-United States, immigrants and refugees to now deportees, alongside many other marginalized people, have been dehumanized beyond measure in the face of white supremacy,” she said. “Our communities have been stripped of resources and deprived and left with nothing. This is not the land of the free. This is not the land of dreams. This is stolen land.”
The crowd applauded.
Shave also called on the crowd to fight racism directed at Black people.
“We must also address the anti-Blackness within our communities,” she said. “This is the time to come together, stand up for one another. Especially in times of injustice, we must show up and show out, and we cannot allow white supremacy to pit us against each other, because when structural racism affects one of us, it affects all of us.”
Many blame the latest wave of anti-Asian bias on Donald Trump and the xenophobic rhetoric he used to link COVID-19 to China, though discrimination against Asian people in the United States stretches back more than 100 years.
The national coalition Stop AAPI Hate received 96 reports from Massachusetts of anti-Asian hate and discrimination between March 19, 2020, and Feb. 28, according to data released last month. Nationwide, the group received 3,795 reports of anti-Asian incidents during the same period, it said.
In Quincy, two separate rallies opposing anti-Asian hate were held at City Hall.
Both drew supporters demanding an end to racism, while people also called for unity and offered full-throated support to members of the city’s Asian-American community.
The “Stand Up, Speak Out! Pan-Asian Solidarity Rally,” held Saturday afternoon, was organized by Quincy For Transformative Change and other local organizations. Speakers discussed past experiences of racism and voiced fear about the prospect of violence directed at Asian-Americans. They emphasized common cause with other communities, including Black Americans, who have experienced racism and violence because of white supremacy.
Ben Hires, chief executive at the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, highlighted efforts by Quincy residents to create a city department of social justice and equity, as well as state legislative measures, including new educational programs, to help combat racism.
He also called for broader investments in creating access to jobs, housing, health care, and other services for communities of color.
“We need to center transformative justice that begins with cross-racial justice, and community building that addresses white supremacy as the root cause of violence and hate,” Hires told participants.
Earlier in the day, people gathered at Quincy City Hall for the “Fight Anti-Asian Hate” solidarity event organized by a coalition of local groups, including Quincy Asian Resources Inc.
Philip Chong, the organization’s chief executive, said in a statement that the effort was meant to bring people together.
”This is about all of us,” Chong said. “This rally is about unity, it is about communication, and it is intended to be a very loud statement that the city of Quincy is a place where we respect and care about one another.”
In Fields Corner, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito joined a group of demonstrators holding signs denouncing anti-Asian hate. Drivers passing through the neighborhood honked to show their support.
Polito said the Asian-American community is “very much a part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
“This community needs to know how important they are to us in the Commonwealth, and they need to know that we support them and I don’t want them to be scared,” she said. “We care about them. And we need them because they are very much a part of our future success as a Commonwealth.”
Al Wong, 74, said he is a native of Hawaii and has Chinese ancestors. His relatives in Washington state have been subjected to verbal abuse, including being told to “go back to China.”
“This racism needs to be, one, recognized, and, more importantly, addressed by all Americans and especially the government, at every level,” said Wong, who lives in the North End.
Kei Nguyen, a Quincy resident, said he wanted to be at the Fields Corner event to raise public awareness about the racism affecting the Asian community.
“I just want to lead by example,” he said. “We need to have more Asians be vocal and speak up and be leaders.”