Protest against anti-AAPI racism held in Mountain View
April 14, 2021
Prompted by the recent hate crime against 75-year-old Chinese man Pak Ho and by the history of racism against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, hundreds of protesters joined the AAPI march organized by local youths and adult advisors in Downtown Mountain View from 3 to 5 p.m. last Sunday.
The crowd gathered at the Mountain View Transit Center, then marched through Downtown Mountain View with chants including “love over hate” and “no Asian hate.” At the end of the march, protesters were welcomed by an uplifting traditional Japanese Taiko drum performance at the City Hall to begin the rally. A range of elected officials and community members including Congress member Anna Eshoo and 8-year-old Cupertino resident Michael Pan gave speeches addressing racism at the rally.
After a moment of remembrance for Ho, the protesters watched the members of youth musical group Able2Shine sing “No More Hate–We Need a Tolerant World” and teen Aparna Prabhakar perform her poem “Brown” to stand against racism and celebrate Asian identity.
Organizing the protest
Mountain View Whisman School District board member Christopher Chiang reached out to local high schools in the beginning of April in search of youth organizers to help organize a protest against the spike in anti-Asian racism. The three students who volunteered to take the leadership positions were Castilleja School senior Amanda Khu, Lynbrook High School sophomore Jason Shan and Mountain View High School senior Daisy Kemp (who was unable to attend the event).
The youth chairs collaborated closely with adult supervisors through Zoom meetings and mainly focused on hosting and publicizing.
“I have been looking to take action in some tangible way,” Amanda said. “A lot of the recent hate crimes and the one in Atlanta especially have been really distressing for me, so channeling my energy into something like this is really great.”
As the education advisor for the event, Chiang worked alongside community advisors and political advisors. The community advisors were Vietbay (a Vietnamese organization in Northern California) leader Thai Duong, Fremont Union High School (FUHS) board member Rosa Kim, Mountain View Buddhist Temple member Bob Nakano-Matsumoto and FUHS board member Naomi Nakano-Matsumoto.
The political advisors, Mountain View mayor Margaret Abe-Koga and vice mayor Ellen Kamei, were in charge of outreach and invited several political leaders to speak in the rally including Congress member Anna Eshoo, state senator Josh Becker and assembly members Evan Low and Marc Berman.
The team first met on Friday, April 2, nine days before the event. Three days before the event, the organizers recruited four other student volunteers including Los Altos High School junior Jeannette Wang to help facilitate the event and manage other assignments such as bringing extra posters for protesters to personalize.
Despite only having a short planning process, the team was able to organize an event that drew hundreds of protesters.
“I’m really happy about the turnout of today’s rally,” Jeannette said. “I was super impressed by all of the other youth speakers, especially the little kids. They were all super well-spoken”.
“I think the values of events like this are the stories people share,” protester LAHS junior Katherine Lai said. “There is a power in stories to increase empathy among different people from different communities. [These stories] connect people across races and across ethnicities [who have] experienced the same fear and racism.”
One of the volunteer community speakers who shared their experiences was Korean-American and Bay Area native Yul Kwon, who won Season 13 of the reality show “Survivor.” Kwon spoke about racial aggression towards his family that he’s witnessed both during childhood and in the entertainment industry.
“I remember waking up one morning to find that someone had covered a house with toilet paper and spray painted in giant letters ‘g*ok lives here’ with an arrow pointed at our house,” Kwon said.
The anti-Asian racism followed Kwon into his career. When he was interviewed by “Survivor” creator Mark Burnett, Kwon was “questioned about [his] Americanness” when Burnett asked him “where are you really from.”
“I’m really from the Bay Area, Mark Burnett!” Kwon said. “But there is one thing I know that has changed. Our community and other communities that are standing with us are no longer going to put up with this hate. We are not going to let this happen again and again without speaking up and without calling out ‘this is wrong!’”
Mountain View police chief Chris Hsiung and District Attorney Jeff Rosen also attended the protest, voicing their support for the AAPI community.
“We, as the Mountain View police force, are here for you,” Hsiung said during his speech. “[You can] smile so big that [people] can see it right through the mask, and smile at the [police officers] because I know they are smiling back at you too.”
Rosen, representing the District Attorney office, made a similar promise regarding AAPI hate crimes, which the crowd responded to positively.
“The 600 members of the District Attorney’s office stand with the victim of hate, and stand against the perpetrators of hate,” he said. “We will vigorously prosecute anyone who targets anyone because of their ethnicity.”
Other protesters reflected on racism in their communities more broadly and shared their visions for the future.
“This is the same America built on the backs of enslaved people, the same America that uprooted Japanese Americans from their homes to places in internment camps,” Amanda said during her speech. “We need to strike for the liberation [of all people] from white supremacy.”
Protester Castilleja School senior Aramis Mendoza also emphasized the importance of standing united among different races and ethnicities in the fight for equity and justice.
“Because I know so many people showed up for Black Lives Matter, so I want to show that same support as well,” Aramis said.
Like Aramis and Amanda, other protestors emphasized the need for unity.
“We are the United States,” protester Ester Kwok said. “If we stand united, we will be a better country, [but] if divided, we fall. So given all the hate incidents that are going on, it is important to say that enough is enough.”