#STOPASIANHATEJC Rally Recap
Over the past year, there were nearly 4,000 hate incidents of harassment, violence, and murder reported nationwide against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), with Asian women as victims 2.3x as often as men, nearly doubling the previous year’s total. In response to this alarming rise in violent crimes, the #StopAsianHateJC rally was held at City Hall on April 10th, with passionate guest speakers who informed, inspired, and empowered a large group of attendees there to support our city’s AAPI community. The rally was sponsored by local AAPI advocacy associations, council members, immigrant affairs groups, and more.
“Whose Streets? Our Streets!”
The presenters kicked off the day with chants to energize the crowd to unite their voices against hate. This included “Say it loud, say it clear: API are welcome here!” and “Show me what community looks like! This is what community looks like!” The rally began in earnest with a candle lighting ceremony and a somber reading of a list of the names and ages of victims of violent Asian hate crimes followed by a moment of silence.
Over the next two hours, a dozen speakers representing the AAPI community as state leaders and advocates for change spoke earnestly about their own experiences with discrimination, denounced the rising violence nationwide, and encouraged reporting any and all hate crimes to local authorities. Groups and individuals who spoke included Championing Political Change – a youth-led organization advocating for equal representation in government and empowering the AAPI community in NJ, OCA advocacy group dedicated to advancing the social, political, and economic well-being of AAPIs, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), human rights activist Fatima Gul, and Hoboken mayor Ravinder Singh Bhalla, who voiced his city’s solidarity in standing with Jersey City against hate.
“We Get to Decide Who is American” – Amol Sinha, ACLU-NJ
Looking back on our nation’s history, Asian-American discrimination is nothing new. State Assemblyman Raj Mukherji listed the past atrocities committed against Asians in the United States and lamented the unfair laws against them being appealed less than a lifetime ago.
“This year marks only the 75th anniversary of the Luce Celler Act, which was the first time Filipinos and Indians were allowed to naturalize as citizens,” said Mukherji. “That means our parents, maybe some people here today, were alive when it wasn’t even legal for Asian-Americans, like so many of us here today, to be citizens of this country or vote.”
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal spoke out about how the current rise in violence should not come as a surprise to anyone after years of hateful language and aggressions were perpetrated by former President Trump and his supporters.
“For those of us who have been raising the alarm for the last four years that the former president’s hateful comments will lead to hateful conduct … for those of us that have been saying that using phrases like ‘Kung Flu’ or ‘China Virus’ will lead to people getting hurt, unfortunately, what happened in Atlanta and what’s happening in this state and other parts of the country comes as no surprise.”
“What’s going on now is a stark reminder of where this could lead,” continued Grewal on growing up when the “Dotbusters” hate group was active in New Jersey. “We responded by coming together as we are today by mobilizing, by pushing, by not being satisfied with the laws as they are.”
The crowd also heard about the trauma of growing up as a minority in a majority white community and the confusion and hurt name-calling and discrimination caused in them as children.
“I grew up in the fairly white suburbs of central New Jersey,” said Amol Sinha, Executive Director of the ACLU-NJ. “I remember being young and being called names. I was called ‘dot head’ and ‘camel jockey’ and ‘terrorist.’ Every year from second grade until seventh grade, I remember incidents of people spitting on me and calling me ‘the n-word.’ Not fully understanding what this was, I went to my parents to tell them about it and they would console me. They would tell me to keep my head up, to wear my identity with pride, and to be who I am inside and out because there will always be haters.”
There were also comparisons made to the BLM movement and the ever-spreading culture of fear that is instilled in our minority communities.
“If you are an Asian American standing here today,” said Amy Torres, Executive Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “This fear that you feel for your loved ones is a fear that has been felt forever by our Black brothers and sisters.”
“We are Not the Cause of Your Problems” – Shirley Ng, AALDEF
Music was also an important part of the day. Singer Angel Ram sang a beautiful rendition of Andra Day’s song, “Rise Up,” while GABRIELA New Jersey – a National Democratic Filipino women’s grassroots mass organization in Jersey City working towards the liberation of Filipinos home and abroad – lead the crowd in a call and repeat song calling for oppressed people of different groups to celebrate themselves and make their voices heard.
Although the energy was one of positive empowerment within the crowd, the stark truths and reality of why everyone was gathered were not to be lost. The murder of eight people, six of which were Asian women, at three massage parlors in Atlanta in March 2021 was especially top-of-mind. Andrew Zhang, a representative of Solidarity & Mutual Aid JC – a community organization that came together a year ago to triangulate the needs of their community during the pandemic with grocery deliveries, food and supply distributions, and any other way they could figure out how to help the people around them – did not mince words about what that atrocity was and its cause.
“Let’s be clear,” said Zhang. “This act was a racist, sexist hate crime. The police and the media tried to say it wasn’t, that the murderer was ‘the victim of his own urges.’ Let’s unpack what the urges of a white male domestic terrorist means and how they are directly connected to the various manifestations of violence against Asian people and notably Asian women … We must look at the totality of violence against Asian people at home and abroad and recognize that they are rooted in an ideology of white supremacist misogyny.”
“We Need Love, But We Also Need Unity” – Council President Joyce Waterman
There were many calls for the need to unify as one people to end hate for good. Ben Macaro of Anakbayan NJ – a youth and student organization working to educate, organize and mobilize the community to address important issues that affect Filipinos in the U.S. and the Philippines – detailed the struggle of Asian migrants coming to America to sustain and improve their livelihoods, but instead face dangerous working conditions and outrageous prices in housing, healthcare, and education.
“We must be in solidarity with all other oppressed communities,” said Macaro. “To end AAPI violence means connecting our struggles with the struggles about other oppressed peoples to address the problem at its root.”
“I didn’t come here to plan revenge. I came to make peace with those that hate us,” said Cecil Delgado of Migrante New Jersey, an organization of Filipino migrant workers and their families who seek to educate, organize and mobilize the low-income and working-class Filipino families in New Jersey. “We are not your enemy. We will not beg for your love, but we will ask you to respect us.”
City Council members showed their solidarity and spoke of the city coming together as one, with Council President Joyce Waterman commenting that this scene was all too familiar to the BLM protests of the past year, before closing out the speakers’ segment with an impassioned chant of “stop Asian hate.”
“When you do a disservice on one person, indirectly you will do a disservice to us all because we are all Americans. This is the land of the free and it’s the home of the brave. And today I see out in the audience the brave lifting up their voices saying stop Asian hate … Enough is enough regardless of the color of your skin. We are one people.”
Asks of the JC Community
The rally concluded with a reading of the list of asks for the Jersey City community to commit to in order to create a long-term, community-centered solution to address safety in our city.
- Establish a task force within the community and proactively address anti-Asian hate and violence.
- Have conversations with the community to discuss long-term solutions to the issue and unite on solutions.
- More funding for community programs led by community members who have relationships with the impacted population.
- Track hate crimes.
- Develop a community-crafted and culturally sensitive protocol to address discrimination and hate crimes.
- Cultural sensitivity training for law enforcement and stakeholders including a commitment from City Council to hold bad actors accountable, not mere platitudes.
- Long-term education on the value and history of AAPIs in society in the school curriculum.
What to Do if You Witness an Anti-Asian Hate Crime
Distraction: Derail the incident by interrupting it. Ignore the harasser and directly interact with the person being targeted.
Delegation: Ask for assistance, including calling 911 – keep in mind some people will not be comfortable with law enforcement intervening.
Documentation: Recording the incident can be helpful, but do not post anything online without the harassed person’s permission – publicizing trauma is no way to be a helpful bystander.
Direct: Be sure to assess the safety of the incident and do not engage in dialogue or debate that might escalate the situation.
Delay: If not given the chance to intervene immediately, wait until the situation is over to speak to the targeted person to ask them if they are OK or need help.
To sign your name to the letter writing campaign against hate, click here.