A middle school student from San Mateo organized a rally Saturday to raise awareness about the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and show support for the Asian community across the entire Bay Area.
Thirteen-year-old Ashlyn So brought together hundreds of people from the San Mateo community and beyond in a peaceful event dubbed Stand For Asians.
"I just thought this isn’t OK; I have to do something about this," Ashlyn said Saturday. "I told my mom I want to start a rally."
The event took place at Central Park on East Fifth Avenue and El Camino Real in San Mateo and included a number of local officials, including San Mateo City Councilwoman Amourence Lee, Millbrae City Councilman Anders Fung and Belmont Mayor Charles Stone.
Get a weekly recap of the latest San Francisco Bay Area housing news. Sign up for NBC Bay Area’s Housing Deconstructed newsletter.
Those officials and other speakers discussed how the community can help alleviate the recent rash of racist and xenophobic attacks against Asian Americans and do so with compassion, education and unity.
The Millbrae Anti-Racist Coalition helped So organize the rally.
"It heartens me that there are so many people who came out today to support raising awareness about anti-Asian violence," said Dawn Lee of the Ant-Racist Coalition.
Many talked about the need for support in the community. They want Asian-American victims to not be afraid of reporting crimes, something organizers say is crucial to making progress.
"I do think that a lot of people think it doesn't happen here, it's the Bay Area," said Jen Sheridan of San Mateo. "It does. I hope it raises awareness. I hope it makes people feel supported."
Several such hate crimes have occurred across the Bay Area, including one unprovoked attack in which a 19-year-old man shoved an 84-year-old Asian to the ground in San Francisco, and the older man ultimately died as a result of his injuries.
In an effort to help make merchants and customers feel safe in light of the attacks, a group of Oakland Chinatown leaders is planning to extend community foot patrols there.
The crimes in Oakland’s Chinatown seemed to have hit a violent peak leading up to Chinese New Year three weeks ago. That’s when the volunteer citizen foot patrol started, but it wasn’t a long-term effort.
Joe Ma, head of the East Bay Toishan Association, said through interpreter Josephine Hui that on Monday they’ll announce plans to take over the patrols.
“We just want to take over so that we can have a little bit longer time to protect the businesses and residents,” Hui said.