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Vigil in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood honors victims of California shootings

People hold up the flashlights on their phone while attending a vigil in front of the Chinatown Gate in Boston on Saturday.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Community leaders in Chinatown gathered with elected officials and residents on Saturday to pay tribute to the victims of two mass shootings in California last week, many of whom were of Asian descent, while calling for increased gun control nationwide and deeper conversations around mental health.

The gathering drew about 150 people who at times bowed their heads in reflection and at other times cheered and applauded during remarks from leaders in law enforcement and local politics.

“It’s not just coming together to heal the community but also to [show] that gun violence, mass shootings, discrimination, and racism against any group” go against American ideals, said Wilson Lee, president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance’s Boston chapter.


“We’re supposed to be the shining city on the hill, the country that other countries want to emulate,” he said in an interview. “I think this is the last thing any country wants to emulate, with mass shootings.”

The shootings in Monterey Park, where 11 people were killed, and Half Moon Bay, where seven died, sent ripples of fear through Asian American communities across the country.

The attack in Monterey Park, an Asian cultural hub in Los Angeles, broke out on the night of Jan. 21 at a ballroom dance studio after an event celebrating the Lunar New Year.

Nine people were also injured before the shooter, identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, attempted a similar attack at another dance studio but was disarmed by an employee. Authorities have described the weapon as a submachine gun-style semiautomatic pistol that is illegal in California.

Tran was found dead in a van from a self-inflicted gunshot wound the next day, authorities said.

Two days later, an agricultural worker allegedly killed seven people at two mushroom farms in Half Moon Bay, a coastal community south of San Francisco. Five of the victims were of Asian descent and three were Hispanic, and all but two were in their 60s or 70s.


The suspect, 66-year-old Chunli Zhao, admitted to committing the attacks and told an NBC affiliate from jail that he regretted his actions.

In Chinatown, small white plastic candles were set up in the shape of a heart on a table in front of a funeral wreath. State Senator Lydia Edwards read the names of the California victims.

The gathering coincided with protests in Boston in response to the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five police officers in Memphis.

“It’s just so important that we stand together in love and resilience, stand together in solidarity, against gun crime, against the horrific nature of violence that is happening all over our country,” said Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden after the vigil ended.

Material from the Associated Press and the Washington Post was used in this report.

Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.