Rafu Staff Report
TORRANCE — In response to recent incidents of anti-Asian hate at Wilson Park, Rolling Hills Plaza and Eastgate Plaza, the Torrance City Council on July 21 unanimously passed a resolution denouncing xenophobia.
Although participants in an anti-racism protest at Wilson Park on July 11 criticized the city for not charging suspect Lena Hernandez of Long Beach for the two attacks that took place there, the resolution does not address that issue. Hernandez has been charged in connection with an assault at the Del Amo Fashion Center last October, but not for verbally harassing Asian Americans at the park, despite the fact that the victims recorded video of the incidents.
Introduced by George Chen, the council’s only Asian American member, Resolution No. 2020-78 reads as follows:
Denouncing Xenophobia and Anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander Sentiment Due to Fears of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Affirming the City’s Commitment to the Well-Being and Safety of Asian American Communities
Whereas, the City of Torrance is committed to providing a safe environment that allows all residents and visitors equal access and opportunities …
Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center reports that 13,666,118 cases and more than 586,369 deaths have been confirmed worldwide since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 3,546,871 cases and 138,040 deaths in the United States as of June 25, 2020
Scientists have confirmed that COVID-19 does not respect borders and is not caused by ethnicity, and the World Health Organization has cautioned against using geographic descriptors because they can fuel ethnic discrimination …
There are 23,000,000 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which is 7 percent of the population of the United States …
Over 2,000,000 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in health care, law enforcement, first response, and transportation, as well as service industries …
Hate incidents, hate crimes, discrimination, and aggression against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are on the rise throughout the country as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are being blamed for the COVID-19 outbreak …
COVID-19 is a public health issue, not a racial one, and the characterization by some individuals of COVID-19 as a “Chinese virus” only encourages hate crimes, hate incidents, and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at a time when communities should be working to get through this crisis …
In the City of Torrance, the Asian American and Pacific Islander population make up nearly 37 percent of the city’s population …
The increased use of anti-Asian rhetoric nationwide has resulted in Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders being harassed, assaulted, and scapegoated for the COVID-19 pandemic …
The City of Torrance has the highest concentration of Japanese Americans in Los Angeles County …
Medal of Honor recipient, Japanese American Torrance native Mr. Ted Tanouye, paid the ultimate price in service to the United States of America during World War II while his family and more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly imprisoned by the federal government solely based on race and bigotry …
Torrance resident Mr. George Nakano served as the first Asian American member of the Torrance City Council and later served as a member of the California State Assembly …
Mr. Ted Lieu served as a member of the Torrance City Council, the California State Assembly and Senate, and currently in the House of Representatives as the congressman for California’s 33rd Congressional District, which includes Torrance …
Mr. Al Muratsuchi served as a member of the Torrance Unified School Board and currently in the California State Assembly as assemblyman for the 66th Assembly District, which includes Torrance …
The City Council of the City of Torrance wishes to affirm its commitment to the well-being and safety of Asian American and Pacific Islander residents, students, employees, visitors, and community members, and ensure they know they are not alone and that they can speak out to help stop the spread of bigotry.
Now, therefore, be it resolved that the City Council of the City of Torrance hereby:
1) Denounces xenophobia, racism, discrimination, and anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander sentiment due to the fears of the COVI D-19 pandemic;
2) Joins local districts, cities, counties, and states across the country in affirming its commitment to the safety and well-being of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; and
3) Affirms its commitment to providing a safe welcoming environment for all residents, students, employees, and visitors of any race, ethnicity, and national origin.
Statements supporting the resolution were sent to the council, including the following from Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, which was submitted by NCRR Co-Chair Kathy Masaoka and presented orally by Kanji Sahara of Torrance:
“We commend the Torrance City Council and fully endorse the spirit of the resolution denouncing xenophobia and hate sentiments against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. We would like to offer some concrete suggestions:
“We urge you to respond to hate acts, whether they are verbal or physical, with seriousness and respect for all parties involved. NCRR concurs that Lena Hernandez must be charged for her hate-filled speech and threatening behavior towards persons of Asian Pacific Islander heritage.
“We urge you to develop ways for those directly involved and the community to learn and heal. As a start, Ms. Hernandez must receive the mental health services that her behavior requires and the families, especially the children, must receive support and counseling.
“We urge the council to issue public statements as you are doing today … that hate speech and racism are not tolerated in Torrance. We urge the City Council to post signage in public spaces and parks that state that Torrance is a ‘hate-free’ city and ALL communities are welcome here.
“We urge the City Council to provide information as to where hate incidents should be reported, such as the STOP AAPI Hate for Asian American and Pacific Islander hate acts.
“AND, we urge the council to create a task force to focus on racism by bringing diverse community groups together to address racism and create solutions as an ongoing effort to unite communities. Many models exist, such as the OneRichmond Initiative in San Francisco, which seeks to embrace diversity.
“Make Torrance a SAFE place for all to live and work. This resolution is a good first step.”
Sahara, who is also a member of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition, also submitted a statement as an individual.
Louise Sakamoto of Gardena, a member of the Greater Los Angeles JACL, wrote, “For 15 years, I have walked nearly every day at Wilson Park in Torrance. We are a diverse group — Asians, Latinos, White, Black — who use the park harmoniously.”
Ron Chun, a lawyer, said, “I come before you today, thinking of one of my mom’s best friend. She was a 3 year-old Nisei girl sent to the World War II internment camps. She was victimized because the world stood by and said nothing. Today, she and the other Torrance City residents are being victimized again because of inaction.
“We preach to our children to be engaged in our community as productive citizens. What do we say to them during this time of increased violence and bigotry — that we did said nothing and did nothing?
“Why do I say to my World War II uncles, my Korean War vet father or four members of the 442nd/100th ‘Go For Broke’ unit — that their blood was spilled and nothing was done to make their children safe?
“My answer to them: is we fought back with the hope that elected officials will follow the will of their people and understand our just cause for fighting.
“In my public comments on behalf of MANAA (Media Action Network for Asian Americans), I have already given you the legal, political and moral justifications why inaction will continue to victimize all of us.
“We come here not to condemn you. We come here to engage in a dialogue with you for constructive change.
“In this climate of unprecedented violence and fear going viral in reaction to the second great civil rights movement, you have the opportunity to be on the right side of history and make your community safer.
“Words alone won’t deter further violence, bigotry and the resulting physical and verbal assaults on our psyche.
“Engage with us to take action for a better Torrance. I believe adopting Councilman Chen’s resolution is the first step towards dialogue and away from inaction.”
The Daily Breeze reports that Councilmember Mike Griffiths gave City Attorney Patrick Sullivan an opportunity to explain publicly the city’s legal justification for not bringing criminal charges against Hernandez for the two park incidents.
While acknowledging that the city has been deluged with complaints, Sullivan said there was simply not enough evidence that would be admissible in court. “I can’t listen to an outcry, even if it’s … a justifiable outcry,” Sullivan explained, adding that under state law the council is unable to influence his office’s decision on whether to bring criminal charges in a case.
In connection with the recent incident in which a store in Rolling Hills Plaza received an anonymous threatening note, the local Japanese consulate said in a statement: “Regarding the Japanese business that recently incurred harm, on June 19, 2020, the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles conveyed to the mayor of Torrance that any bigotry was unacceptable and urged maximum protective measures for the victims of the incident.
“Mayor (Pat) Furey was very distressed by the incident considering the historically close relations between Torrance and Japan. The consulate also learned that the Torrance Police Department was approaching the matter seriously and exerting maximum effort to ensure the safety of the victims and the apprehension of the perpetrator, and would continue to communicate closely with the consulate.”