SAN JOSE (KPIX) — A rally in San Jose Saturday morning drew hundreds from all around the South Bay to denounce the attacks on Asian residents and now there is a growing call for Asian and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) to stop remaining silent.

As the sound of Taiko drums thundered across San Jose’s city hall plaza, the drumbeat of change was also in the air. With Asians and Pacific Islanders being targeted in racially-motivated violent attacks, it is becoming clear that the cultural ethos of staying silent is not serving them well.

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“As a young immigrant about 40 years ago, I’ve heard these comments,” said Sunnyvale police chief Phan Ngo. “”Speak English, you damn foreigner! Go back home!'”

Saturday’s rally was hosted by Rep. Evan Low, (D-Campbell), San Jose city councilmember Pam Foley and the Asian Americans for Community Involvement, a Santa Clara County-based nonprofit serving marginalized ethnic communities. Similiar rallies have been held in Oakland and San Francisco in recent weeks.

Stop AAPI Hate, a San Francisco based coalition that addresses nationwide anti-Asian discrimination, received more than 2,800 firsthand reports of discrimination and abuse on Asian American people between March 19 and Dec. 31 of 2020.

The group says anti-Asian discrimination has increased over the last year, fueled largely because of the falsehood that Asian Americans are responsible for the spread of COVID-19.

San Francisco resident Jasmine Nguyen, who attended Saturday’s rally, said her grandmother, who is Asian, has been verbally harassed by strangers more than once while she was out walking.

“I think seeing the reality of what can happen with those hate crimes is very distressing, especially given the fact that a lot of the elders who are attacked look like my family,” Nguyen said.

I always thought to myself — a significant fear — that one day we too would be marching for Asian Pacific Islander lives and that fear, unfortunately, has been realized,” said Rep. Low.

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“When I first saw an Asian elder getting pushed on the news I was beyond petrified and shocked,” 13-year-old activist Ashlyn So told the crowd. “How could this happen in our society? This is America, why was this happening?”

Saturday’s rally drew more than two hundred people including law enforcement, district attorneys and elected officials from the local, state and federal governments. Speaker after speaker representing communities throughout the South Bay came forward to denounce the rise in hate crimes, including San Jose Sharks president Jonathan Becker and 49ers president Al Guido.

“Since this pandemic started, there’s been more than 3,000 hate crimes against AAPI,” said Guido. “Folks, this must stop.”

Many believe racist hysteria over the coronavirus is to blame but Max Leung founded an Asian safety patrol group called the “SF Peace Collective” more than a year ago, before the virus had been politicized.

“This isn’t a new problem, this has been happening,” Leung said. “This did not start because of COVID-induced xenophobia, although it did exacerbate it. But, again, this is nothing new,” Leung said.

San Jose police have started a “Safe Place” initiative where businesses can display signs in their windows offering refuge to victims and a secure place to call police.

“That’s what it’s about,” said SJPD Sgt. Ken Tran. “Get the message out to let people know it’s OK, that they should report these incidents.”

Officials hope this can convince people who have been taught to stay silent to speak up and that there are plenty of people who are willing to hear them.

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