WATSONVILLE—Joining forces with others around the nation, a protest against anti-Asian violence unfolded at the City Plaza Friday.
About 40 people waved homemade signs reading “#Stop Asian Hate,” among other things, at passing motorists and pedestrians in downtown Watsonville.
“Today we came to show our solidarity for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders neighbors in light of the recent hate crimes and increased attacks that the community has faced,” Jenni Veitch-Olson said. “I thought it was really important to come out and show solidarity. We have an Asian American community here in Watsonville. We have a rich history of them being a part of our city. So it is important that we denounce these horrendous crimes in the way that they have been mistreated.”
There have been several similar protests recently, including a large one in San Jose over the weekend, following a mass shooting in Georgia on March 16. A white man burst into three massage parlors and murdered eight people, six of them women of Asian descent. Throwing salt into that wound, a police official in Atlanta said the gunman was simply having a “bad day.”
According to the Associated Press, the gunman told police that the attack was not racially motivated. He claimed to have a “sex addiction,” and authorities said he apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation. Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said it was too early to tell if the attack was racially motivated, “but the indicators right now are it may not be,” according to multiple national news reports.
The following day in San Francisco a white man threw a heavy punch into the face of an elderly Asian woman on Market Street. She armed herself with a stick of lumber and beat the man so fiercely that he had to be hauled away on a gurnee to the hospital.
“Racially-motivated violence should be called out for exactly what it is and we must stop making excuses and rebranding it as economic anxiety or sexual addiction,” said Marilyn Strickland a Democrat Representative of Washington. “As a woman who is Black and Korean I am acutely aware of how it feels to be erased or ignored.”
Anti-Asian violence has had a recent uprising, particularly during the pandemic, as some U.S. political leaders repeated racist slogans such as China Flu and Kung Flu. About 3,800 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center for Asian American Pacific Islanders communities, since March 19, 2020.
There is also a long history of Asian discrimination and violence in the U.S. through the Chinese Exclusion Act, the rounding up of Japanese Americans and imprisoning them during World War II and other such events.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was a U.S. federal law passed in 1882, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. That law stood until the passing of the Magnuson Act in 1943.
Locally, Watsonville was the center of one of the largest anti-Asian violence events in the state in 1930. For five days, hundreds of armed white men took to the streets, targeting and beating Filipino American workers who they claimed were stealing their jobs and women, according to multiple reports.
The riot reached a head on the night of Jan. 20, 1930 when 22-year-old Fermin Tobera died after being shot on San Juan Road. The incident was a catalyst for more riots, instigated by white men around the state.
The Watsonville City Council last year officially apologized for the lynch mob in a resolution.