March 6, 2021 By Christian Murray
A crowd of more than 125 people congregated under the 46th Street–Bliss train station Saturday to express their outrage about the spike in Anti-Asian violence–and to make clear that there is a united front of residents in Sunnyside who aim to stamp it out.
The event was organized by Steven Raga and Julie Won, both candidates running for 26th District city council seat to replace the term-limited Jimmy Van Bramer. They were joined by at least five other candidates who are running for the seat who were there in solidarity.
Many families attended the event, accompanied by young children. Several attendees carried signs that read: “Hate is a virus” and “Stop Asian Hate.” One person held a sign that read” “Enough is Enough.”
Raga, a Filipino American, and Won, a first-generation Korean immigrant, decided to host the rally—called “Stand Up Against Asian Hate” in Sunnyside to bring awareness of the issue in their community.
The pair were at a recent rally in Manhattan protesting anti-Asian hatred but felt the need to show the world that Sunnysiders are just as outraged as activists in Manhattan.
“Last week Julie and I attended the ‘Rise Against Hate’ rally down town and we spoke afterwards,” Raga said. “We wanted to bring it [the rally] here–in Sunnyside.”
Won said that the way to combat the problem is by coming together as a community.
“It is important that we stand in solidarity because it’s through community that we resolve these issues of violent attacks,” she said.
She later urged people to speak up when they see someone being attacked and said that everyone needs to act with “love and compassion.”
The rally comes in the wake of a recent spike in attacks against Asian New Yorkers—with the bigotry tied in part to the outbreak of COVID-19.
There were 28 hate crimes against Asian Americans in New York last year, compared to just three in 2019, according to the NYPD. This year, there has already been a series of attacks.
Several council candidates running for the 26th Council District such as Jesse Laymon, Julia Forman, Amit Bagga and Heajin Hallie Kim also spoke out against the violence. So too did Carolyn Tran, running for the 25th District council seat.
Candidates such as Brent O’Leary and Emily Sharpe, both running for the 26th District, as well as Alfonso Quiroz, who is running for District 25, were in attendance.
Laymon warned that racism has no boundaries and that everyone has to look out for each other.
“Bigotry is itself an epidemic disease that is constantly mutating with new variants, and what is targeting one community today will target another community tomorrow and targeted others years before that,” Laymon said.
“This anti-Asian hate is not so different than anti-Semitism, from homophobia and the hatred directed to our Muslim neighbors…This is all one disease, and we must fight it together, or we will not succeed against any of it.”
Meanwhile, Potri Ranka Manis, a frontline nurse who is from the Philippines, urged people to resist the hatred. “Let’s stop the Asian hatred. Let’s unite. Let’s not allow hate to succeed. Let’s champion love and unity.”
Sharon Lee, who served as acting Queens Borough President in 2020, said that hate crimes against Asian Americans is nothing new.
“This is not just in the last couple of weeks,” Lee said. “This is not new. I urge everyone to speak up.”
Lee said that Asians have a history of not reporting these crimes.
Meanwhile, Van Bramer, who noted that as a queer man he has been subject to homophobic attacks, said that the violence against Asians Americans is about bigots trying to instill fear.
“All of us are the answer and we will all protect each other,” Van Bramer said. “We will not allow anyone in our community to be isolated or feel alone. We will never accept that—and allow hatred to leave anyone to feel powerless.”