When Harvard Student Ryan Doan Nguyen saw surveillance footage of the fatal attack on 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee last month, he closed his laptop and didn't know what to do with his anger.
"He looked just like my grandfather," he said to a crowd on Boston Common on Saturday. "My heart was aching."
Nguyen, 18, helped organize Boston's Stop Asian Hate rally, one of many held around the country following a year of increased attacks against Asian people during the coronavirus pandemic. Nguyen said he's been following them all. While he spoke, people held signs that read "Racism Is A Virus," "I Am Not A Virus" and "Stop Asian Hate."
"I should not have to worry that my grandmother will be set on fire while putting out the trash. I should not have to worry that my grandpa will be slammed to the ground and killed on his morning walk. I should not have to worry that my uncle will come home from the subway one day slashed across the face," Nguyen said. "That's why we need to do this, because when it comes to making change and pursuing justice, the most dangerous thing is apathy. The most dangerous thing is silence."
The event began with moments of silence and music for Breonna Taylor, the Black woman police gunned down in her bed in the middle of the night during a botched drug raid. Rallies were also held in Taylor's honor on Saturday, in Louisville and elsewhere.
"I should not have to worry that my grandmother will be set on fire while putting out the trash. I should not have to worry that my grandpa will be slammed to the ground and killed on his morning walk. I should not have to worry that my uncle will come home from the subway one day slashed across the face."
"As a Black woman, I know something about racism," said former Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Linda Champion. "As a [Black Asian], I know a lot about racism."
She talked about people interrogating where she's from or dismissively and wrongly identifying her. She said ignorance must be fought with patience and teaching.
"To end racism, we have to talk to people. Look to the person to your left and the person on your right and say 'A little more love is OK,' " she said. "It's OK for us to love each other, it's OK for us to deal with people who may not understand what racism feels like. We have to show them, we have to teach them, we have to educate them."
Actor and activist William Lex Ham wore a shirt that read "Proud To Be Asian" and shouted it to the crowd.
"We are just as deserving of respect and equality and dignity, just as anyone else," he said. "But if we don't get it, the onus is on us to f---ing take it."
Rally ended with a march through Boston's Chinatown, with chants of "Stop Asian hate, love Asian people."