April 13, 2021

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Bay Area artists and skaters rally in San Francisco and Oakland to support Asian communities – San Francisco Chronicle

4 min read

With paintbrushes and posters, roller skates and skateboards, the Bay Area showed support Saturday for Asian communities that have been the victims of an increasing number of hate crimes.

In San Francisco, several hundred people filled the upper level of Chinatown’s Portsmouth Square at noon for a community art event and rally designed to give Asian Americans and supporters a safe place to express their grief and anger. Many in the crowd displayed handmade signs: “Respect everyone’s grandma,” “Hate is a virus” and “Asians belong.”

Others grabbed pots of bright watercolor paint and brushes and painted butterflies and messages of peace, concern and resistance on the plaza to counteract the ugly violence that has surged across the nation and the Bay Area. The crowd tiptoed around the freshly painted messages.

Corri Uyeda, 29, of San Francisco painted a bright blue “Hapa Pride,” using the word for a person of mixed Asian heritage. She said she attended the event because she felt the need to stand up.

A Chinatown resident stands with the San Francisco Asian American and Pacific Islander community at a rally in Portsmouth Square of San Francisco.

A Chinatown resident stands with the San Francisco Asian American and Pacific Islander community at a rally in Portsmouth Square of San Francisco.

Mike Kai Chen / Special to The Chronicle

“I’m just sick of seeing people like our grandparents being beaten in the streets,” Uyeda said. “As someone who had been taught growing up to keep our heads down, don’t make noise, I am tired of doing that. We need to start showing up for our people.”

Uyeda recently joined a Chinatown safety patrol and neighborhood watch.

Atop a raised planter in a corner of the park, speakers urged the community to lean on, and look out for, each other.

Sasanna Yee, one of the organizers, spoke of the pain she has suffered since her 89-year-old grandmother, Yik Oi Huang, was beaten in 2019 in Visitacion Valley Playground. She died in 2020 from her injuries, her family said.

“I show up time and again to be with community for healing,” she said. “I know I cannot handle this pain by myself.”

Yee, who has formed a group called Asians Belong, has also begun a campaign to rename the park where her grandmother was attacked the Yik Oi Huang Peace and Friendship Park. A petition is at www.change.org/yikoihuang.

On Jan. 28 in San Francisco’s Anza Vista neighborhood, an 84-year-old Thai man, Vicha Ratanapakdee, was out for a morning walk when someone shoved him and he fell and struck his head on the sidewalk. He died two days later.

In Oakland’s Chinatown, about 80 people rolled into Madison Square Park later Saturday afternoon for a solidarity skate against anti-Asian violence. A candlelight vigil was also planned for Pak Ho, 75, of Hong Kong, who died last week after being robbed and assaulted in Adams Point, north of Lake Merritt.

People skare or bike during a rally to support Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at Madison Square Park in Oakland.

People skare or bike during a rally to support Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at Madison Square Park in Oakland.

Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle

Similar rallies were scheduled around the nation and in other Bay Area cities, including El Cerrito, Daly City and Brisbane.

Shirlui Dang stands with the San Francisco AAPI community at a rally in Portsmouth square of San Francisco on, March 20, 2021. The Asian American community is coming together with the recent surge of hate crimes against Asian Americans and the recent shooting of 6 in Atlanta Georgia.
Shirlui Dang stands with the San Francisco AAPI community at a rally in Portsmouth square of San Francisco on, March 20, 2021. The Asian American community is coming together with the recent surge of hate crimes against Asian Americans and the recent shooting of 6 in Atlanta Georgia.Mike Kai Chen/Special to The Chronicle

In Oakland, the racially diverse crowd set off on their rolling protest through the streets. Some wore T-shirts reading “Sk8 against hate” or carried signs naming Ho, Ratanapakdee and the eight Atlanta victims shot to death on March 16. Six were of Asian descent.

“We have a large skate community here, and we wanted to do something,” said Ashley Silva, 29, who is Filipina and Hawaiian and helped plan the event. She and her friends chose skating to “cover more ground and get more attention,” she said.

As the group headed down Ninth Street into the heart of Chinatown, drivers honked and pedestrians pumped their fists in the air and shouted support.

The groups We Skate and Lake People Skate are planning a similar event at San Jose City Hall Sunday at 2 p.m.

Anti-Asian violence has been on the rise nationwide, encouraged by former President Donald Trump blaming the pandemic on “the China virus” and using other racist epithets. Such attacks have hit the Bay Area hard.

Ho’s killing was preceded by a series of robberies and assaults in Oakland’s Chinatown since the start of the year. In San Francisco, three older Asian Americans were brutally assaulted recently downtown. Danny Yu Chang, a 59-year-old travel agent from Vallejo, was walking at Market and Montgomery streets Monday when he was struck from behind, knocking him unconscious and leaving him unable to see out of his left eye. A day later, an Asian American man, 83, was attacked at Seventh and Market streets. As the attacker fled, he assaulted a 75-year-old Asian American woman, who fought back.

Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: mcabanatuan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @ctuan

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