San Francisco Chinatown holds candlelight vigil for mass shooting victims

A bell echoed through San Francisco's Chinatown, sounding once for each of the souls lost in the mass shootings at Half Moon Bay and Monterey Park.

A candlelight vigil brought hundreds of people to Portsmouth Square Thursday night. In the distance, the top of Salesforce Tower was lit with images of the Year of the Rabbit, a reminder of the usually festive time that has been marred by the violent attacks, fear, and grief.

Charles Jung, executive director of APA's vs. Hate introduced the coalition of Asian and gun-control non-profits called for compassion and shining a light on the darkness and desperate need to remove the stigma in many Asian communities of asking for help with mental health.

"They just want to get some support. When we face these things, we feel painful, we feel lonely," said Elaine Peng, founder of the Mental Health Association for Chinese Communities.

"We need a place to call. We need someone to talk to. And suffering that in silence, being scared all alone is what we want to change," said Orchid Pusey, Director of the Asian Women's Shelter.

The 66-year-old Chinese farmworker accused of shooting and killing seven coworkers in Half Moon Bay told a reporter he was bullied at work.

The alleged shooter in Monterey Park committed suicide after the attack, described by some as lonely and hopeless.

Names of all the victims, Chinese and Mexican, were written on a lantern that Reverend Norman Fong brought to Thursday's vigil.

"My dad when he immigrated to the U.S. in 1915, all the Chinese were farmworkers first. So there's solidarity between our two communities. And I hope nothing divides us," said Rev. Fong.

One of the vigil's organizers Josephine Zhao is a co-founder of Communities As One. She says that preventing violence needs to begin with helping people recognize their emotions and find ways to communicate with others.  

SEE ALSO: Families of Half Moon Bay victims hope to return slain relatives to Mexico

"Basic communication, disputes, resolution, conflict resolutions, sometimes it's about loneliness, family abandonment. All of these can turn from love to hate in a moment," said Zhao.

At the vigil, organizers called for action, gun control, more services, and caring across the community.

"It is nice to see that everyone came out and had a moment of solidarity together, like total strangers care about this," said Kelsey Johek, an Oakland resident who attended the vigil.

Mattie Scott, President of the Brady California's San Francisco chapter said she has lost her son and other relatives to gun violence and spoke in support of the people at the Chinatown vigil.

"Your pain, is my pain. Your community is my community. We must stand united in this nation," said Scott.

"We're grieving together...we're healing together," said Zhao.

Guzheng artist Winnie Wong and singer Alliana Lili Yang performed music for the crowd. 

Organizers of the vigil also brought a condolence book for people to write messages for the victims' families.

The Organization of Chinese Americans has been working with those families and scheduled a news conference for Friday at 10 a.m. at 400 County Center in Redwood City.