RAFU STAFF REPORT
“I feel exhausted from the rage I feel every single day,” said Tanny Jiraprapasuke, her voice cracking with emotion.
Jiraprapasuke, a Thai American, spoke eloquently on Saturday about the incident that she said forever changed her life. Approximately 1,000 filled JANM Plaza on sunny, cool Saturday afternoon for “Love Our Communities: Stop Asian Hate,” a rally in response to the rise in attacks against Asian Americans since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jiraprapasuke, wearing a mask, told the gathering that she was on the Metro Gold Line on Feb. 1, 2020 when a man began gesturing towards her and saying that “every disease had come from China.” She began to take video of the man with her phone, fearing that he may assault her and the video could be used as evidence.
“That ordinary Saturday night turned into a nightmare. After about 10 minutes of expletives and ranting I looked around the train for an ally. Every single man averted my eyes. I felt alone and I wondered if every man thought I was worthy of the assault. However, the saving grace was a young black woman who stood in solidarity with me,” Jiraprapasuke said. “By making eye contact with me she acknowledged the attack was happening. She gave me a smile and that gave me comfort.”
She explained the devastating long-lasting impact the assault has had on her life.
“I no longer feel safe in my neighborhood, I no longer feel safe taking the train.
Feel constant worry for my mom, my sisters, my aunt, my friends, feel limited where I can go,” Jiraprapasuke said.
The rally was organized by a network of progressive Asian American organizations, including Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, Ktown4BlackLives, Tuesday Night Project, Nikkei Progressives, Sunday Jump, API Equality LA, Kabataang maka-Bayan/ProPeople Youth, Progressive Asian Network for Action, Palms Up Academy, and J-Town Action and Solidarity.
Emcee Alison De La Cruz welcomed the gathering, saying the time together would be a “journey of healing.” Korean drummers opened the rally and many carried hand-drawn signs, showing support with messages of “#Standfor Asians” and “Black-API Solidarity.”
Strings of origami cranes adorned a Wall of Solidarity set up for the event. Participants wrote messages of support on index cards.
In Los Angeles County, attacks have ranged from verbal insults to physical violence, with more than 800 incidents reported through the 211 hotline alone. Stop AAPI Hate has reported more than 2,800 incidents nationwide from March to December 2020.
A small offering of incense was burned in memory of victims of violence. The recent violence has often targeted the most vulnerable — the elderly — including 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee, who died after being shoved to the ground in San Francisco on Jan. 28. Blocks from the rally, investigation continues on the arson and vandalism that took place at Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple last month.
Former L.A. County CEO Bill Fujioka, representing the Japanese American National Museum, told the gathering of mostly young people that the ground they stood on was where Japanese Americans were rounded up and sent away on buses to concentration camps in 1942.
Fujioka recalled his own experiences with racism as a youth.
“As a child, a day barely passed when I wasn’t called a Jap. And a week didn’t pass when I wasn’t beat up because I was Japanese and a Japanese American,” Fujioka said.
“As I grew older it was my hope that AAPI community would find a greater level of acceptance and respect because of our contributions and accomplishments in the US. Now the level of political vitriol and incendiary language has created an environment where hate crimes have gone up 150%.
“Especially our elders have been subjected to horrific acts of deadly violence and cherished landmarks and businesses have been vandalized.
“We must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with AAPI communities to condemn these acts of violence in the strongest terms.”
Photos by MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo