By Betty Yu

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — What started as an idea between rapper China Mac and actor Will Lex Ham has now become a national movement called “They Can’t Burn Us All.”

China Mac and Ham helped organized the first marches in New York City after an 89-year-old grandmother was slapped in the face and set on fire in Brooklyn in July. It’s one of a number of anti-Asian attacks reported amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“‘They Can’t Burn Us All’ is unity, right, because they can burn one of us if we’re alone, and when I say ‘they’ I don’t mean a particular type of people, just ‘they’ as in anyone who is coming to harm us,” said China Mac.

Since March, there have been around 2,600 anti-Asian hate incidents across the country, collected by the STOP AAPI Hate Reporting Center. A quarter of those originated in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“Everywhere we’ve went, Asians feel this anxiety and fear of being attacked,” Ham said. “When is the next thing going to happen? And when is something going to be done about it? This is our way of doing something.”

The two friends turned activists stopped to patronize San Francisco Chinatown businesses, and spread their message on the streets Friday evening.

“We’re not just trying to unite Asians, but everyone, and build bridges between Black communities, brown communities, all communities, and just come together as a people,” added Ham.

Before San Francisco, “They Can’t Burn Us All” held a march and rally in Los Angeles.

“We can’t rely on anybody else, we can’t rely on this broken system to help us, we are going to have to come together, and really do it now,” said China Mac.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a resolution, sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng, D-NY, to denounce the racism toward Asian Americans that has surged in the wake of COVID-19. Even though the legislation won heavy Democratic support, 164 Republicans voted against it.

“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” said Cynthia Choi, Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action. “We should all condemn hate in all its forms and it certainly is part and parcel to the fact that Asians are being blamed for the coronavirus.”

The unite rally begins at 1 p.m. Saturday on the steps of San Francisco City Hall. They will then march to Chinatown. After San Francisco, China Mac and Ham plan to take the movement to Seattle.

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