Final farewell to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in Chinatown
SAN FRANCISCO - Leaders and community members of San Francisco Chinatown held a candlelight vigil Thursday night in honor of the late Mayor Ed Lee.
They say they wanted a way to pay tribute outside of City Hall.
The vigil was held at Portsmouth Square.
About 500 people attended the event.
People in the Chinese community say they will remember Lee not only as mayor but someone who fought for those who didn't have a voice.
There was a rousing thank you in Cantonese to Lee at Portsmouth Square.
It's a place the community calls the "living room" of Chinatown. It's also a place Lee frequented as mayor and before that, as a young tenants rights attorney for the Asian Law Caucus.
"Mayor Lee was a remarkable person and a quiet giant," says Anni Chung with Self Helf for the Elderly.
Organizers say this candlelight vigil is an opportunity for the many Chinese immigrants and senior citizens whom Lee helped in his decades of public service, to celebrate his life and legacy.
Lee's work, says one community leader, inspired himself and other young Asian Americans to fight for the vulnerable.
"Ed was definitely a role model. Ed was a friend. Ed was a mentor. As a young attorney coming up, to do right by the community," says Malcolm Yeung, deputy director with Chinatown Community Development Center.
"We know San Francisco has not always been kind to Chinese Americans in the past ...given the history of Chinese Exclusion ...anti-Chinese riots," says Gordin Chin, Lee's friend. Chin is also founder of the Chinatown Community Development Center.
Friends say Lee's role in San Francisco history is undeniable as the city's first Chinese American mayor.
In the world of politics some liken to a bloodsport, supporters say Lee managed to keep his integrity.
"He did a great job keeping the civility of this city intact," says Chin.
"In his quiet humble way, he was able to bring the city together to focus on the issues and not on the politics," says Fiona Mah, Lee's friend.
During the vigil, a sea of faces of those who saw Lee as their champion, holding a candle to a man whose shoes they say will be hard to fill.
Lee's family did not attend but his daughters spoke through a family friend.
"Our father loved Chinatown: the people , the restaurants , the shops , the alleyways and perhaps most import of all, the spirit of community," says Andrew Sun, a Lee family friend and spokesman.
"Not only did he care about what happens in Chinatown. He cares about what happens to all people all over our entire city," says London Breed, Acting San Francisco Mayor.
Lee's supporters say their hearts are heavy, but their spirits are lifted by his legacy of hope and community activism.
Lee's family says he brought his dedication to social justice to everything that he did.