On January 28, 2021, 84-year-old Thai immigrant Vicha Ratanapakdee was fatally assaulted on his daily morning walk around his neighborhood in San Francisco. The suspected murderer was 19-year-old Justin Welter who, upon seeing Ratanapakdee, ran across the street and violently shoved him to the ground, knocking him out.
Ratanapakdee never regained consciousness after the incident.
According to Stop AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Hate, there have been over 2,800 firsthand reports of anti-Asian hate across 47 states since March 19. In Oakland alone, more than 20 assaults and robberies have been reported and, in Oakland, dozens of Asian-owned businesses have been vandalized.
According to East Bay Times, Oakland Chinatown in California has decided to hire armed guards, and “ambassadors” have volunteered to escort residents and visitors, especially the elderly, around the town. Citizens have also decided to bring back a community police officer that has originally been removed due to budget cuts.
Unfortunately, violence against the Asian community is nothing new. In the late 19th century, Asian-Americans were referred to as “yellow peril” and, according to PBS, were seen as “unclean and unfit for citizenship in America.”
Iona Chang, a citizen of Oakland Chinatown, recounted a traumatic event at a press conference earlier this month. While she was walking down the street one afternoon, three “youths” violently attacked her.
“They dragged me to the ground. They punched me. I fought back with them but they managed to take my wallet, my phone, and my keys out of my pockets,” she said. ““I’m here to tell you what happened to me was awful. I do not want this to happen to other Asian American women, or anyone else.”
Ever since the Coronavirus spread to the United States, the violence has only increased. Citizens across the United States, as well as government officials, have started referring to the virus as the “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus.” A study conducted by PEW Research Center stated that nearly a third of Asian Americans (31%) have reported that they have been “subject to racist slurs or jokes,” while 26% feared that they might be attacked.
In an interview conducted by “Nightline,” Connie Wun, a San Francisco native and community leader, voices her concern, saying that the violence has “grown dramatically” ever since the pandemic began.
“When the previous administration said things publicly, like ‘the Wuhan virus’ or ‘this is the China flu,’ unapologetically, he helped to stoke the fires of anti-Asian violence against our communities,” she told “Nightline.”
On February 19, a two hour long rally to raise awareness of the rising violence of the Asian community was held at Los Angeles State Historic Park. It consisted of about 300 people, and was organized by Stand For Asians Solidarity, an informal committee that raises awareness of the rising anti-Asian violence and addresses the needs of the Asian American and Pacific Islander(AAPI) community.
Young-Jin Yang, an entrepreneur, as well as the organizer of the event, stated that the catalyst for organizing the rally was the death of Ratanapakdee.
“I’m fed up with the elders and the most vulnerable in our society being attacked merely for the way that they look,” Yang told City News Service
Despite the fact that President Joe Biden had recently signed a “memorandum,” that denounced any discriminatory statements that government officials have made about Asian Americans, many people still believe that government officials, as well as police, need to be doing more to combat the violence.
“This is wrong, and we need to say something,” said Yang. “We are begging you to please acknowledge that these things are happening, and to please say something. Give us an opportunity so that our future generations will be seen as an equal human being.”