After violence, protesters gather to support Asian community
"Stop Asian Hate," "Hate is a Virus" and "A Bad Day Doesn't Justify Hate Crimes" were some of the language plastered across poster boards Sunday afternoon, March 21, in Lake Oswego.
The Oregon Chinese Coalition organized protests at 17 locations across the Portland metro area March 21. The Lake Oswego Chinese Council took the reins, helping get the word out about the three Lake Oswego locations: the downtown Lake Oswego Safeway, Zupan's Market in Lake Grove and the corner of Carman Drive and Kruse Way.
"It really moves me that people put together this event so quickly," said Abbie Qi, who's part of the LOCC. "It feels like a unity to me that people can work together."
The protests were on the heels of the Atlanta-area killings last week that targeted three massage parlors. Eight people were shot and killed, six of whom were of Asian descent.
The alleged gunman, Robert Aaron Long, has not been charged with a hate crime as part of the investigation, but Qi said she has seen increased discrimination against Asian Americans over the past couple years.
"It makes us heartbroken," Qi said. "It's hard to make this place your home when you are under these kind of circumstances."
Eric Shi, chairman of the LOCC, said that although most people in Lake Oswego are welcoming, people are starting to realize that hate crimes do exist.
"The big thing is, we live in the bubble," Shi said. "Most of us don't understand that words do matter."
For many protesting on Sunday, Shi said, this was their first time expressing themselves.
Shi — who joined protesters near Zupan's — said he was shocked to see one driver show a middle finger to the protesters.
"I was so surprised, so that tells us no more silence," Shi said.
He also acknowledged the importance of having Chinese and Asian history properly taught in schools.
"We need to talk about it," he said.
Qi said the Lake Oswego community has been supportive and it meant a lot to see people outside the Asian community show up at the protests or show support as they passed by.
Sophomore Alicia Li, one of the leaders of the Lake Oswego High School Asian American Student Union that was started in September 2020, said she found out about the protest less than 24 hours before it was supposed to take place. Li and other leaders from the student group gathered supplies and posted on social media stating they would be at Westlake Park an hour before the protest to make signs. Li said about 20 students showed up as well as Mayor Joe Buck.
"It was great to get all that support," Li said. "Asian American hate has been happening for quite a while now."
Li added that microaggressions and discrimination escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Qi also said it was important to have Lake Oswego leaders at the protest.
Buck was among the leaders to show face along with City Councilor Massene Mboup and Lake Oswego School Board member Neelam Gupta.
"I heard about this through some of the high school groups that advocate for the (Asian Americans and Pacific Islander) community," said Buck, adding that he met some of the student groups who were decorating signs at Westlake Park before heading over to the intersection of of Carman Drive and Kruse Way. "Most of the folks at that intersection were members of our Asian community. For me, it was a great opportunity to see both people I've known for some time but to also meet quite a few folks ... One thing in particular I noticed was the youth who were there really advocating for the protection of their elders."
Buck said in Lake Oswego much of the older generations of people in the Asian community are immigrants who don't speak English as their first language. He said he's noticed that their children are fearful for the vulnerability of the older generation.
Li agreed. She said many students have grandparents living with them and are fearful for their elders who might be more vulnerable.
Buck said the youth are very active in the community and are leading the way for many of the adults.
"We have noticed a real underrepresentation of Asian Americans on our advisory boards in our city," said Buck, adding that Asian Americans are the largest minority group in Lake Oswego. "It really takes those personal relationships, that direct connection and invitation to get folks to step up and apply."
He said he started to develop those new relationships Sunday, working to build more trust between the city and the Asian American community.
There will be a silent protest to support the Asian community Sunday, March 28 at 4 p.m. at Millennium Park Plaza.
"We want Asian community members in Lake Oswego, we want them to get on the street, show your face and let people know we are hurting," Shi said. "We want people to listen to our voice … We can't hide anymore. We need to talk about it."
By Clara Howell
Follow Clara at @CHowellMedia
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