An estimated 1,200 people gathered in Aquatic Park in West Berkeley on Sunday and marched to the pedestrian overpass over I-80 to speak out against anti-Asian hate.
The rally was organized by middle schooler Mina Fedor with her friends Anna Hill, Bee Norton Tsang, Juno Yu and Mila Cavagnaro. It was held in response to a spate of violence against those of Asian-American and Pacific Islander descent, most notably a March 16 mass shooting in Atlanta where a man killed eight people, six of them Asian-American women.
Fedor, who attends Black Pine Circle school, introduced the event, as did Simon Alejandrino a teacher at Redwood Day school; Fedor’s grandmother read out the names of recent anti-hate victims. “We hope that everyone is inspired to take action after attending our rally. Our youth voices are rising and this is just the beginning,” said Fedor.
Berkeley City Councilmembers Rashi Kesarwani and Rigel Robinson addressed the large gathering, as did Jane Bahk, author of Juna’s Jar, Elaine Dang of Act to Change, Lateefah Simon, President of the Akonadi Foundation and Stanley Pun of AYPAL, among others.
Speaking to the crowd, Simon said, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom! It is our duty to fight! It is our duty to win! We must love one another and support one another because we have nothing to lose but our chains!”
Numerous students at the protest spoke out against the everyday discrimination and insults they and their families experience.
“Some of these youth spoke about the discrimination they face now, not 20 years ago or 30 years, ago,” said Jenny Wong, Berkeley’s city auditor who was at the rally and wrote an essay about the discrimination she has faced. “It was so inspiring. I was blown away by their voices.”
City Councilmember Rigel Robinson marched and led the chant, “Hey hey, ho, ho, Asian hate has got to go.” At one point he talked about his family’s experience with discrimination. A person told his mother, a Korean-American, to go back where she came from, said Wong.
Kesarwani spoke of the need for unity among different ethnic communities. “To defeat racism and white supremacy, we must act in solidarity with Black people, Indigenous people, Latinx people, our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and our white allies and anyone who is willing to fight to be treated with dignity and respect, and anyone who wants to join our cause,” she said.
“It was very empowering for these many Asian Americans to speak out… claiming our right to be Americans,” said Wong. “We are Asian Americans. We are not just Asians.”
As the protesters walked and held up signs on the overpass, many cars passing on the freeway honked their horns in support.