Columbia residents gathered in front of the Statehouse on Saturday to denounce Asian American violence, which has been on the rise since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Act Now to Stop War And End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition called today a "national day of action" to call attention to the rise of Asian American violence. In Columbia, the local chapter of the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL), working as a part of ANSWER, organized the gathering.
The gathering came after a shooting Wednesday in Atlanta left eight dead — six of which were Asian American.
Those present held up signs reading "Solidarity with Asian communities," "Fight racism," and one sign said "Laban," which means "Fight" in Tagalog.
Micah-Rafael Hall, fourth-year international business and marketing student, who held the "Laban" sign, said his parents are both immigrants from the Philippines and said he experienced numerous incidents of racism in his life in America.
"It's about time we actually said something, and I think that's the thing. We've been silent for too long. The concept of model minority has really been ingrained in a lot of us, and we haven't spoken out about these things. Because of everything that's going on right now, I think it's about time we actually said something and actually stood up and fought back," Hall said.
Junlan Li, doctorate curriculum and instruction student, said she was "very touched" by the gathering and to see other minorities and white people joining in.
"That is very important so we still have hope. Because everybody here is coming to support justice — it's not just for Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders — but for everyone. It's not just such and such groups, but everyone that can live on this land free of fear and safely," Li said.
White, Black and Asian American protestors were part of the gathering. Bugsy Calhoun, a Columbia resident who attended with the group Purple Stilletos, handed out water to people who were present. He called the gatherings' diversity a "beautiful thing."
"In order for someone to be heard, you're gonna need voices of all different backgrounds. Because when you heard it from one ethnicity, it's easy to tune it out or to vilify it or demonize it or make it seem like 'oh these people are crazy' but if everybody of different backgrounds come together you know that in a commonality that it's something wrong and we're trying to all come together," Calhoun said. "I wasn't here for this, but I stand with those people too."
Kym Smith, a PSL organizer, did not know how many people were going to show up beforehand. She said the struggles of different multicultural communities are interconnected.
"White supremacist terror has impacted my community, the Black community, the Asian community, the Latino community. It's impacted in every community so we are just coming together in solidarity and uplifting this message and showing our struggles are interconnected. The only way we are going to fight this is by solidarity and coming together," Smith said.
Li said if there was one thing people would take away from the gathering, it would be that staying silent in order to keep the peace no longer works.
"Silence will not solve anything," Li said.