Bay Area rallies denounce anti-Asian attacks on day of national protest

Rallies were held Friday across the country, on what was declared a National Day of Action and Healing.

The events were organized to highlight prejudice and violence directed at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The national coalition "Stop AAPI Hate" tallied almost 4,000 incidents from March 2020 to March 2021, from slurs to physical attacks in every state.

About half the reports were in California.

"It saddens me there’s still so much bigotry and hate in this country," said Dan Ginn of Oakland, part of a noisy sign-waving crowd in San Leandro.

At 7pm, a few dozen people gathered in Root Park.

"2,4,6,8 we just want to end the hate," they chanted, eliciting loud honks from passing motorists.

"We have a diverse city here so we need to make sure there's no hate to anybody in our community," said Brian Azevedo, a San Leandro City Council member who organized the rally.

"Asian-Americans make up 30 percent of the San Leandro population," said Azevedo, "and attacks on them are up 283 percent so we need allies in San Leandro."

In San Francisco, hundreds of people turned out for a midday rally and march billed as Rise Up with Asians.

Highly publicized attacks, caught on video, have galvanized the community.

"We need to raise awareness everywhere," said protester Terra-Lynn Tokiwa of San Jose.

"My friends in North Dakota and places not on the West Coast, they still don't know about these things happening every day."

Rob Bonta, nominated as California's first Filipino Attorney General, calls anti AAPI hate violence a "crisis."

"It is not going away and it's getting worse," said Bonta.

"Individuals spit on and yelled at, pushed down, punched in the face and assaulted, and now, being murdered."

At a Peninsula rally, elected officials urged passage of the federal "Stop Hate Act" which would direct funds to state and local governments to track and combat racially-motivated crime. 

"I am scared, I am very heartbroken, I am saddened," said Buenaflor Nicolas, a member of the South San Francisco City Council.

Nicolas laid blame squarely on President Trump for "putting a bullseye" on Asian Americans with rhetoric that escalated during the pandemic. Nicolas admits she ran for public office to counter it, and provide reassurance to her grandchildren.   

"They have to be proud and comfortable with who they are, they are Americans who happen to be Asian," declared Nicolas.

More rallies are planned across the Bay Area this weekend, with support continuing to pick-up momentum.

"It's the first time I've had a chance to rally with my son on an issue we're both involved with," said Ginn.

"We're here today, we're united, and our voice will be heard."