Around 150 people attended a memorial in downtown Whitehorse on March 27 to pay tribute to the eight people killed in a mass shooting in Atlanta.
“Hearing about the violence against the community, especially towards women in particular, accumulating in the horrific Atlanta shooting, has been traumatic,” said speaker Anne Huang, who delivered a tribute to Soon Chung Park, who was one of the victims.
“I’m here today to honour the innocent women who were killed and to use my voice to make a stand against racism in all its forms. We’re ready to fight on behalf of our first-generation immigrant parents and grandparents who had to hold in their rage and anger. Who didn’t have the English vocabulary to fight back. Who were taken advantage of,” she said. “We are not your model minority. We are not your fetish. We are not a virus.”
Huang addressed a large crowd who had signs reading “Stop Asian Hate,” “Say No to Racism” and “Hate is a Virus.”
Organizers led a march from the United Church to the totem pole on Front Street, where the crowd lit candles in the cold and listened to tributes for victims Chung Park, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Paul Andre Michels, Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim and Yong Ae Yue.
The individuals were killed by a lone shooter who targeted three spas in Atlanta on March 16.
Speakers, including rally organizers Mellisa Murray and Pawan Bhardwaj, Fumi Torigai, Whitehorse city counsellor Jocelyn Curteanu, Carmen Wong, Aurora Viernes and Kwanlin Dün First Nation elder Dianne Smith shared stories of the individuals who were killed. They included sharing their favourite music, hobbies and close relationships with family members and community.
Six of the victims were Asian women, sparking rallies around the United States and Canada, calling attention to anti-Asian discrimination and misogyny.
“I want to thank all of you for coming out on this cold evening. I really appreciate that,” said Torigai, who noted that hate crimes against Asian-Canadians have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic.
According to Fight COVID Racism, a group funded by the federal government that is tracking incidents, there have been close to 1,000 reported anti-Asian hate crimes across Canada since March 17, including insults, death threats and spitting.
“In this country, no one should live in fear. When we see this kind of senseless act of violence caused by hate, we must speak up. If we just stand idle, being silent, that’s helping those people who would do this kind of heinous act. Silence is not an option,” said Torigai.
“Remember, love is stronger than hate. We must love each other, we must respect each other, and we must work together to create a society free from all kinds of discrimination.”
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org