Across the board, local leaders unite in condemning anti-Asian violence

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN, PHOTO BY EMILY MCNALLY

Local leaders have united in condemning hate crimes against Asian Americans, just days after the Atlanta-area spa shootings in which a Caucasian suspect killed eight victims, six of whom were Asian women.

“I condemn all hate crimes and acts of racism against our [Asian American and Pacific Islander] community,” Los Altos Mayor Neysa Fligor wrote to the Post. “As a community, we need to be united against all racism and hate crimes because united together is how we defeat hate.”

Fligor’s statement echoes a similar resolution passed unanimously by the Los Altos City Council last May, denouncing xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiment at a time when Asian American communities faced increasing discrimination and hate crimes amid the rising pandemic.

The nonprofit organization Stop AAPI Hate announced in late February that its reporting center saw 3,795 hate incidents against Asian Americans occur between March 19, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2021.

“We have to be loud and clear that these crimes and acts will not be tolerated here,” Fligor said. “I encourage all those who experience or witness a hate crime or act of racism to please report it to your local law enforcement.”

Palo Alto Mayor Tom Dubois made similar comments to the Post, adding that the Palo Alto City Council plans to discuss and pass a resolution condemning the hate crimes on Monday.

“I think we need to move beyond tolerance and inclusion to really embracing BELONGING,” Dubois wrote. “I have always been proud of Palo Alto as a welcoming place and I am proud of how we, even during the pandemic, responded to calls for racial justice. We need to continue to embrace a spirit of collaboration and hold each other accountable when we see people that aren’t meeting these standards.”

Mountain View Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga and Mayor Ellen Kamei wrote a guest opinion piece in the Mountain View Voice similarly condemning anti-Asian crimes, and expanded on the history of Asian discrimination in the United States, citing the Chinese Exlusion Act of 1882 and the internment of Japanese Americans in WWII. Both Kamei and Abe-Koga said they had multiple family members interned.

“In Mountain View, we celebrate the diversity of our community,” Abe-Koga and Kamei wrote. “We condemn racist acts and behavior. Hate crimes have not and will not be tolerated.”

Abe-Koga went so far as to detail an incident just weeks ago when she was volunteering at the city’s senior center, a Caucasian senior yelled at her to “stop talking” and that she only wanted to listen to “American English.”

The councilwoman wrote in the opinion piece that she was initially conflicted as to whether she should report the incident, but did so after learning that the same woman demonstrated similar behavior when interacting with an Asian senior.

“We must talk about our personal experiences to raise awareness, to be seen and counted,” Abe-Koga and Kamei wrote. “This is why we both became involved politically in the first place — as AAPI elected officials, we aim to use our voices to be heard, seen, and ensure our place around the conversation and decision-making table.”

As Abe-Koga asserted, the local community has not been immune to anti-Asian sentiment. 

A woman was arrested in Mountain View in March after stealing from a downtown Mountain View store and yelling racial slurs. And, last July, a woman was recorded in a viral video berating an Asian postal worker at the downtown Los Altos post office and using racially-charged language.

At the time of publication, the Post was unable to reach Kamei for further comment.

“Our Asian-American and Pacific Islander neighbors, students, and community members are being subjected to verbal harassment, physical abuse, and targeted violence based on race,” wrote Mountain View–Los Altos School District Superintendent Dr. Nellie Meyer in a statement to the community today. “[MVLA] strongly condemns these recent acts of hatred and violence.”

In her statement, Meyer also linked to the district’s March 8 adoption of a resolution for the elimination of racial discrimination, as well as a resolution from last May denouncing anti-Asian sentiment.

“We stand in support of the AAPI community and others who have come under attack since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Meyer continued. “We cannot let this targeted hatred and violence be a legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic … I ask that you stand with us as we stand with all members of our community.”

Meyer added that the district is committed to its obligation to teach students about “bias and historical racism that has led to these acts of violence,” presumably referencing the district’s work-in-progress ethnic studies curriculum.

Palo Alto Unified School District Superintendent Don Austin mirrored Meyer’s remarks in a press release today, also linking to resources to support AAPI communities.

“Like many, I have followed the coverage of anti-Asian acts throughout our country,” Austin wrote. “As your Superintendent of Schools, I want to reaffirm our full support of our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander staff, students, and families … I am encouraged by the immediate and purposeful actions taken to support our students processing racist acts and attacks.”

At the county level, the Santa Clara County Police Chiefs’ association released a statement dated to March 17 condemning hate crimes against AAPI communities. 

Signatories included Mountain View Police Chief Chris Hsiung, Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea and Palo Alto Police Chief Robert Jonsen.

“We condemn the recent hate crimes and bigotry against our AAPI communities,” the association wrote. “Our hearts go out to everyone who has been traumatized. As law enforcement leaders in Santa Clara County, we are committed to protecting you and doing everything we can to prevent these abhorrent criminal acts.”

The association added that its members are committed to holding perpetrators accountable, and that “an attack on the AAPI community is an attack on all of us.”

Santa Clara County District 3 Supervisor Otto Lee echoed the sentiment in a recorded county statement, noting that the county is home to over 700,000 Asian Americans.

Last April, the county board of supervisors also passed a unanimous resolution denouncing xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiment.

“The increase of violence, attacks, harassment and intimidation against Asian and Asian Americans is absolutely unacceptable,” Lee said. “The face of hate will come in many shapes, but we must always stand in rejection of hate and ignorance, no matter the form. As we enter 2021, we must offer unity over division and to stand up to all forms of racism to protect one another.”

Carly Heltzel, Gil Rubinstein and Melody Xu contributed to the reporting on this story.

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