A coalition of organizations held a call to action Thursday after Portland became the backdrop of two anti-Asian bias crimes last week.The July 14 demonstration organized by Oregon Rises Above Hate (ORAH) comes less than a week after police arrested Neal Hollis Walker on Friday, July 8, for allegedly targeting a man of Chinese heritage in a road rage incident.
Dylan J. Kesterson also was arrested in early July after police accused him of punching a father and his 5-year-old daughter as they rode bikes along the Eastbank Esplanade on July 2.
According to court documents, Kesterson attacked the family from California because he thought they were Japanese.
"Our elders are afraid to leave their homes and our women are afraid to walk alone. We do not feel safe here," Chisao Hata with the Japanese American Museum of Oregon said at the event. "This hate is changing how we live our lives, and it needs to stop."
Duncan Hwang, interim director of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) told KOIN 6 News a 2022 survey of local Asian Americans found that 49% of participants reported witnessing or experiencing hate or bias within the year.
He said his fellow Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are tired of carrying the fear of being targeted.
"Both families were just minding their own business. It's devastating to hear that folks can't just go on a bike ride or drive around town without fear of coming under attack."
Hwang said he and others were outraged to learn Kesterson was connected to another racially motivated attack against a Filipina woman and others on Easter Sunday.
In light of the recent connection, court documents show Kesterson has now been indicted on 20 counts including charges of bias crime and assault.
Dr. Ryuichiro Abe, the father and victim in the Eastbank attack, said Kesterson's alleged actions ruined his family's trip to Portland.
"My trip to Portland, which we had been looking forward to for a long time, was ruined in an instant," Abe said. "My wife and little girl said 'I want to get out of the city as soon as possible. I want to leave the United States. I never want to see this city again.'
"I believe that this man came after us because he hated us as Asians. I felt I couldn't do anything during the attack, but now I can do this. I can speak out against his hate and his violent actions against my family and me and others … I hope by speaking up, we can work together to make Portland a better place for everyone."
John Needham, a named witness to the family's attack, said he, his partner, and his daughter felt compelled to step in and help after watching Kesterson assault them.
"I said stop what you're doing, and he turned and yelled something at me and went right back to pounding on the father of the family," Needham said. "I saw a child and she was lying flat, and the mother was kind of protecting her and the father was also in between and protecting … I think the father at that point was in a state of shock and wasn't able to compute. He was just taking the blows. It was horrible to see that."
Needham told KOIN 6 News that as terrible as the incident was, he was glad to see so many others lend a hand.
"I think we were able to halt it because there were other people who recognized that it had to be stopped and we didn't just stand by," he said.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of Pamplin Media Group.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.