Asian Art Museum holds event to mark 1-year since Atlanta spa shooting

One year ago on March 16, eight people were killed in shootings at spas in the Atlanta area. Six victims were Asian women.

Bay Area community activists held a four-hour event to honor the victims at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

The gathering is one of 11 across the country taking place at the same time on this day.    

"We wanted to bring a space where Asian women can come together to feel empowered and to heal," said event organizer Natassia Kwan who's an attorney and activist.  

The event included an hour-long self-defense class taught by volunteers. 

"We're giving them certain physical tools, certain mental situational tools to provide what we can and let our community take it in," said Hudson Liao, founder of Asians Are Strong. He also volunteers as a self-defense instructor.  

Violent crimes against Asians are still top of mind, including the killing of Michelle Go in January after a homeless, mentally unstable man pushed her into the path of a subway train in New York. 

One woman attending the self-defense class said Asian crime victims often have a difficult time getting justice and hate crimes are hard to prove. .

"That there has to be a witness in order for things to be done correctly to get justice. That's not there for our community," said Anika Lee of Mare Island.  

 Organizers said the introduction to self-defense is a first step.

"Being vigilant doesn't mean you're paranoid.  Being prepared doesn't mean you're scared.  It's a lifestyle: taking care of yourself and taking care of others when you think you need it," said Liao.  

Among those attending the event: the daughter of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee  who was killed after a man pushed him to the ground while he was out for his morning walk in San Francisco January of last year.  

Monthanus Ratanapakdee said the suspect in her father's case  has not been tried yet, "We deserve to be safe in the community.  We have a human right to be safe in our community. We have to fight for justice."

Organizers said this "Break the Silence" event  is also about breaking stereotypes -that Asian women are strong.

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They said one way to fight racism is to require schools to include the struggles of Asian Americans in the teaching of American history.

 Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook: @AmberKTVU or Twitter: @AmberKTVU