ANTIOCH (KPIX) — The City of Antioch faced its own history Thursday, acknowledging a dark chapter shared with the much of the country, but with specific horrors on the very site where the apology was issued.

“Today, we as the city of Antioch take a dose of humility by acknowledging our troubled past and seeking forgiveness,” said Mayor Lamar Thorpe.

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“Right here in this area, all Chinese Americans were forced to leave their homes in Antioch.” explained Andy Li of Contra Costa Community College. “Their houses were burned down the very next day.”

Last month, Antioch officials issued an official apology to early Chinese immigrants for treating them unjustly, calling it a “first step” toward racial reconciliation.

The document signed Thursday was, in part, a listing of those sins.

“Where as the Chinese residents were forced out, Chinatown was burned to the ground,” Thorpe said. “Antioch made headline news, headline news. ‘The
Caucasian torch,’ wrote the Sacramento bee.”

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The proclamation also calls for atonement, and an effort to shed more light on this piece of Antioch history, including the tunnels built by persecuted residents when sundown laws forced them from the streets at night.

“This is the first Apology has been made by any government agency in the country,” said Douglas Hsia of the Chinese American Council. “I think it’s a very courageous move and it sets a very good precedent.”

Those on hand Thursday hope this city’s apology will lead to more discussions about the past, and more reconciliation.

“Sometimes justice may come late, but it will come eventually,” Li said.

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“I want to thank the mayor and the city Council for an extremely courageous act, the signing of the proclamation,” said Hans Ho of the Antioch Historical Society. “It is an uncomfortable era of our history, but it’s a history that needs to be remembered. So thank you all. And thank you for allowing me to be a part of the ceremony.”