Vigils Across Ohio Protest Asian Hate In Wake Of Shootings in Atlanta

Jennifer Sun of Avon Lake handed out battery powered candles to the vigil crowd in Westlake. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]
Jennifer Sun of Avon Lake handed out battery powered candles to the vigil crowd in Westlake. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

Vigils over the weekend around Ohio mourned the deaths of the eight people, including six Asian women, who were murdered in a mass shooting in Atlanta last week. 

It also provided a platform to protest a rise in hate crimes and violence against Asian American since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The eight people murdered in the shooting are Hyun Jung Grant, 51, Xiaojie Tan, 49, Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Paul Andre Michels, 54, Yong Ae Yue, 63, Suncha Kim, 69, Soon Chung Park, 74 and Daoyou Feng, 44.

Asian American communities put together vigils all over the state including Dayton, Columbus, Solon and Westlake.

The University of Akron joined several AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) organizations to host a virtual vigil over Zoom Friday evening.

Alice Xu, a sophomore at Hudson High School, spoke to the more than 200 people on the call.

“This was the first time I really knew of someone who looked like me being murdered out of hate. And that really shook me,” Xu said.

More than 100 people showed up to the vigil outside of Westlake City Hill on Sunday night. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

Xu talked about the importance of sharing stories of racism to draw attention to the increase in hate crimes toward Asian Americans.

“You can only be heard if you speak up,” Xu said. “I encourage you to step up and do so because you are saying something that might make another Asian person feel accepted for once in their life.”

Xu called for allies to help stand up for oppressed communities.

“Only when we truly see and hear others can we have a more harmonious and loving environment and community,” Xu said. “Learn about the issues and amplify the voices of the oppressed.”

More than 100 people showed up to the vigil outside of Westlake City Hall on Sunday night. Candles, flowers and signs reading ‘Stop Asian Hate’ and ‘Protect Asian Lives’ surrounded the Westlake bicentennial clock.

The online Stop AAPI Hate reporting center logged 3,795 incidents instances of AAPI hate in the U.S. from March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

Jennifer Sun of Avon Lake attended the vigil with a sign that read ‘Hate Is a Virus’ and handed out battery powered candles to the crowd.

“If you don’t fight for yourself, then nobody will do that,” Sun said. “We just want to be treated equally and I think that is not that difficult. So, I want to get more and more people aware of this.”

Qi Zhang volunteered to help put together the Westlake vigil and moderated the event. Zhang explained that while there appears to be an uptick in Asian hate in the last few months, the hatred has been growing since the pandemic started more than a year ago.

“It’s not a good year and we are fighting for our lives,” Zhang said. “We are united. We are Asian American. We are just like everybody else here. We are seeking our American dreams. We are not strangers from everybody else. We are just the same people as you.”

The online Stop AAPI Hate reporting center logged 3,795 incidents instances of AAPI hate in the U.S. from March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021.

More than 35 percent of those reported incidents took place at businesses. Women reported incidents 2.3 times more than men.

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