Norwalk High School activists hold rally for victims of AAPI hate crimes

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Vincent N. Medina

Juliana Silva (left), Laurane Garrido (middle) and Rachel Huh (right) hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of AAPI hate crimes. They hold their vigil and rally on April 24, 2021.

Vincent Medina, Community Editor

“These were real people. They didn’t ask to be symbols of the face of a movement,” said a teary-eyed Rachel Huh during the candlelight vigil for the victims of the Atlanta massacre.

Norwalk High School students led a demonstration against AAPI hate on April 24. The young activists held their protest on the Norwalk city hall lawn and drew approximately three-dozen supporters.

Sophomores Rachel Huh, 16, Juliana Silva, 16, and Junior Laurane Garrido, 17, are part of the NHS Students for Justice club. Their club discusses social issues such as systemic oppression.

The trio made their club during the pandemic. While they were given the option to return to in-person learning, they opted to continue virtually out of concern for COVID-19.

“This is our first rally,” said Huh. “We are going to have people speak about their experiences, then we will hold a vigil for victims of AAPI hate.”

Rachel Huh and her club, NHS Students for Justice, hold a rally and vigil on the Norwalk City Hall lawn. They protest against AAPI hate crimes on April 24, 2021. (Vincent Medina)

Sylva said that teachers from the high school supported them, but none of them attended their demonstration.

“Ms. Brown and Mr. Campanelli helped us promote our event,” said Sylva. “We’ve reached out to the ASB and student council, but they haven’t really spoken about it.”

NHS Freshmen club members Paola Garcia, Renata De Leol and Maya Whetstone, attended the protest and made signs.

“We are people of color, and to see other people of color go through this is heartbreaking. It could be one of us. We wanted to take the initiative and support them,” said Whetstone.

Throughout the day, speakers and organizers encouraged the students to be more educated on racism in America.

“One of the best things people of color can do is listen to other people of color and hear their stories. Acknowledge the issue,” said Garcia.

Core Movement organizer Anthony Bryson applauded the student activists.

“It’s very inspirational to see high schoolers equipped with the knowledge to make real change,” said Bryson, who plans to run for congress in California’s 47th district in 2022.

Anthony Bryson speaks during a rally and vigil for victims of AAPI hate crimes on April 24, 2021. The rally is organized by Norwalk High School students and held on the Norwalk City Hall lawn. (Vincent N. Medina)

The future congressional candidate also expressed interest in helping the students organize future events.

The O.C. Justice Initiative and the ANSWER Coalition supported the demonstration by promoting the rally on social media, which drew supporters from neighboring cities.

Los Angeles resident and ANSWER Coalition member Sheila Xiao came to support the high schooler’s demonstration.

“Racism against Asian-Americans has always existed. If the local and national governments cared about the Asian community, they would be providing support for the issues we see as a result of the pandemic,” said Xiao, referring to the rise in Asian-American hate crimes.

Norwalk High School students arrange a vigil for the victims of the massacre in Atlanta, GA. Their vigil is displayed on the Norwalk City Hall lawn on April 24, 2021. (Vincent N. Medina)

After several speeches, demonstrators made a candlelight vigil for the massacre victims in Atlanta, GA., where a 21-year-old man shot and killed eight people in massage parlors. Critics believe the attack was Asian-targeted, as six of the victims were Asian women.

“It’s important that we realize that they’re not just victims of this incident, they’re not just names, or a statistic, these are real people. They had lives, and dreams, and friends who they will never see again.”