San Diegans rally to protest anti-Asian violence


Patrick Doyle

San Diegans took to the streets of Downtown on March 20 following shootings in Atlanta. They marched in support of the Asian American community and against anti-Asian racism.

by Patrick Doyle, Staff Writer

In the wake of the deadly Atlanta shootings which killed eight people, six of which were Asian American women,  San Diego residents took to the streets near the San Diego County Administration Center on Saturday to protest anti-Asian racism.

Roughly 100 people joined the crowd through its march across Downtown, and the demonstrators chanted phrases such as “this is what community looks like,” and “racism has got to go!”

The rally was met with support from the community, with cars honking their horns every block and people in restaurants cheering as the demonstrators walked by. Some people in the front of the marching line even played snare drums in tandem with the rhythmic chants condemning violence against members of the Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi-American communities. Dozens of people brought homemade signs to show their solidarity with those who experience racism.

Before the rally, some demonstrators shared their stories of when they or someone close to them experienced violence targeted at them because of their race. One of the rally organizers, who asked only to go by Toni, opened up about a recent experience that left her shaken.

Patrick Doyle

A week ago, Toni was on a run when a man on his bike pushed her over for no apparent reason. She recounts that instead of standing up for herself, in that moment all she could say was “sorry.”

“It killed me inside. I tried to laugh it off, and it just started eating at me,” Toni said while fighting off tears. “So I’m here today to find my voice. I’m a loud, outgoing person – I have been all my life, and the moment that I needed my voice I didn’t use it. I didn’t use my voice. I want you guys to use your voice, I want you to find your voice today.”

The organizers invited other people to speak about their experiences, and several individuals from the crowd shared their stories, such as Filipino American Dee de Guzmán. After the rally, de Guzmán shared his reaction when he first heard about the shootings in Atlanta.

“I was confused, I didn’t know what was happening,” de Guzamán said. “And when you saw how methodical it was, you couldn’t help but think it was a racially-driven attack. It really just deeply saddened me that this is something that has become almost a normal thing now in the community to be living in fear.”

De Guzamán said the increase in violence against Asian Americans recently did not primarily make him fearful for his own safety, but rather that of his elders.

“The fact that my mother tells me she has fears of walking outside is what saddens me the most,” de Guzmán said. “So it’s never really been about my safety, more than how it’s changed the mentality of the older Asian community and how they have this fear to walk outside their door.”

Another rally organizer, who asked only to go by Alice, said she felt a similar fear on behalf of her family when witnessing the Atlanta shootings.

“I saw my family behind that gun,” Alice said. “I saw my family being harassed and attacked on the street. I could see myself in these people and it just broke my heart to know that there’s such hatred out in the world.”

Alice, a Chinese-Vietnamese American, helped put on the rally to create a forum for people to express themselves and share their experiences living in fear because of their race. Her Instagram page, @StopAsianHateSanDiego, supports members of APIDA communities, as well as other marginalized groups.

The rally came to an end after over an hour of marching, and the event left some cautiously optimistic about the future.

“It made me feel hopeful that something can happen,” de Guzmán said.

While violence against Asian Americans still persists, and the horrors of the Atlanta shootings will forever be in the minds of many, Alice said she believes that small gatherings like this can have a lasting effect.

“I want us to create a ripple effect,” Alice said. “A chain reaction that kindness will bring more kindness, unity will bring more unity.”

The organizers said they were pleasantly surprised by the turnout and were glad to see such an outpouring of support from San Diegans. After the rally, Alice and Toni encouraged the demonstrators to visit and support local Asian restaurants in Downtown.