Anti-Asian hate demonstrations held across Southern California

Dozens+attended+the+%22Skate+to+End+Hate%22+protest+in+Irvine+on+March+20%2C+2021.+While+most+skated+or+rode+bikes%2C+some+supporters+marched+and+carried+banners+with+messages+of+unity.+Photo+credit%3A+Vincent+Medina

Dozens attended the “Skate to End Hate” protest in Irvine on March 20, 2021. While most skated or rode bikes, some supporters marched and carried banners with messages of unity. Photo credit: Vincent Medina

Vincent Medina and Emily Melgar

Asian hate crimes have risen in some areas of California according to data from February 28, 2021. California reported almost 45% of the nation’s hate crimes. (Emily Melgar)

End Asian hate demonstrations were held across LA County on March 20 in response to the recent hate crimes toward Asian-Americans.

A “Skate to End Hate” protest was held at OC Great Park in Irvine, where demonstrators rode through the park to advocate for an end to Asian hate crimes. They also rode to support the families of the people who died in the allegedly Asian-targeted massacre in Atlanta, GA, on March 16.

That evening a “Stop the Asian Hate” vigil for the victims was held in Alhambra, where hundreds of supporters paid their respects with candles, flowers and moving speeches about Asian discrimination.

Kaila Karns organized the protest at OC Great Park after learning of similar demonstrations in Northern California.

“Everyone is just pissed right now. There’s a lot of hurt feelings,” said Karns. “There’s a lot of frustration that nobody is taking this seriously.”

The 23-year-old model was deeply heartbroken over the Asian-targeted massacre in Atlanta. Karns recognized that one of the victims could have been her mother, who also works in a salon.

“My mom is Korean. She’s an immigrant. What happened to these victims, in particular Hyun Jung Grant, that could have been my mom,” Karns said. “This has to stop. We can’t do this anymore.”

The Korean activist led dozens of supporters around the park, chanting and waving signs with messages of peace such as “Love is a Vaccine” and “Stop Asian Hate.” A majority of protesters rode skates, bikes and skateboards, while other demonstrators marched behind them.

“It’s time to take a stand against this. It’s time for us to stand together and stop everything that is going on,” said Talia Lostphy, one of the first demonstrators to arrive.

Lostsphy cited white supremacy and racist remarks from politicians such as the “China Virus” as the cause of recent hate crimes.

“Racist thoughts create violence, and that’s what is going on,” she stated.

Rachel Lee attended the protest and has a personal history of Asian discrimination.

“I’ve heard someone say ‘All you Asians look the same’ to me when I was 13,” Lee said. “After seeing what’s been going on, it makes me afraid to go out.”

Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan called Karns to relay a message of support to the protesters, saying, “We are with you, and we stand with you. I hope everyone there has a great time skating and fighting hate.”

Karns said later that the Irvine Police Department supported them. There were allegedly undercover officers at the park to protect the demonstrators.

That evening, Kaila Karns also attended the “Stop Asian Hate: SGV/LA Vigil” in Alhambra, organized by Betty Hang.

According to Hang’s Instagram, this was the first event she has organized in the San Gabriel Valley. She wanted to unite and stand in solidarity with the AAPI community and encourage SoCal residents to stand up against Asian-American hate and violence.

The vigil was held just four days after eight people were shot and killed in Atlanta, six of which were Asian women.

The shooting raised fears of Asian-targeted hate crimes. Over the last year, Asian-Americans were targeted in almost 3,800 hate-related incidents.

The vigil was held at Almansor Park, 800 S Almansor Street, and drew hundreds of supporters from across Los Angeles County.

The “Skate to End Hate” organizer shared her frustrations over the Anti-Asian sentiments and violence she and her experiences. She spoke explicitly about working as a fashion model in LA, saying she was the recipient of Asian racism and rhetoric.

“A former agent of mine once came up behind me during a shoot and said, ‘You know, your features would look much more pronounced if you posed like this’,” Karns said, “and [she] pulled my eyes back the same way so many white kids did to me growing up.”

Joanna Ngo and Alina Wong also helped organize the candlelight vigil as founders of a youth-run community activist organization, 626speakout.

Ngo and Wong started their organization at about the same time as the Black Lives Matter movement. They said they realized how much injustice and racism there was in the world and in their community.

“No one was speaking about it,” Wong said, “and that’s when we realized we had to do something about it.”

Wong also shared her sister’s experience with Asian-hate.

“When she was 12 and walking home from school, a crowd gathered around her and started yelling slurs at her,” Wong explained. “She came home crying. It was very traumatic for her.”

Arianne Cassola and her children also attended the vigil. Cassola wanted to educate her kids on the massacre and Asian hate.

“I wanted to come and support the Asian and Pacific Islander community,” Cassola said. “I brought my children so they’re aware of what could happen to them and to be supportive at an early age.”

Jenny Park attended the event as well to show support for all Asian communities.

“I’m Korean-American,” Park said. “I want to show that we’re all supporting each other. Not only for one Asian community, all Asians together. We’re all human.”

More Anti-Asian hate demonstrations are planned in LA County later this month.