By Josie Huang
Published Feb 17, 2022 11:26 AM
Under the gauzy glow of a shopping plaza sign in Koreatown, dozens of people gathered for a vigil Wednesday night to mark a bleak anniversary.
A few yards away from where they stood, on the corner of 6th and Berendo, is where a Korean American veteran named Denny Kim said he was attacked last February by two strangers who called him Asian slurs and left him with a concussion, black eye and broken nose. A year later, the attackers have not been found.
Tonight in Koreatown, people remember the victims of anti-Asian violence, just days after Christina Yuna Lee was stabbed to death in NY.
The vigil was at 6th & Kenmore…by where a Korean Am man was assaulted last year in what’s being investigated as a hate crime. pic.twitter.com/w8kOAsFI92— Josie Huang (@josie_huang) February 17, 2022
The case was one of 41 anti-Asian hate crimes that Los Angeles police investigated last year — a 173% increase over 2020 that, while dramatic, is still an undercount, according to community advocates who say many victims are reluctant to involve law enforcement.
The attacks on locals and a national surge in anti-Asian violence have pushed neighborhood leaders into action over the past year. One of Wednesday’s vigil attendees, Steve Kang, said the Atlanta-area shooting massacre last March, which killed six women originally from Korea and China, was a tipping point for many.
“We were horrified by Atlanta, but ever since then we’ve been mobilizing to get the word out that enough is enough,” said Kang, director of external affairs for the Koreatown Youth and Community Center. “We want solutions from City Hall, Sacramento and Washington, D.C.”
Organizing Against Anti-Asian Hate
Koreatown, which has the city’s largest concentration of Asian residents, has become a center of organizing around anti-Asian violence. Kang and others have been pressing legislative leaders to more swiftly provide aid to victims of attacks. The Legislature approved the $166.5 million API Equity Fund last summer, but Kang said the rollout of grants and contracts to community organizations that would assist the victims is taking too long.
Some community leaders are also trying to get federal funds directly to victims. At the vigil, Reggie Wong asked others to sign onto a letter that will be sent to U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, requesting that funds from the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act be used for “medical expenses and psychological trauma support.”
“Should hate crime victims have to use a GoFundMe to pay their medical bills?” Wong asked.
“Nooo!” voices shouted in unison.
The letter was crafted by Neighborhood Safety Companions, for which Wong volunteers. The group was formed just under a year ago to provide chaperones to people walking alone through Koreatown. Volunteers also visit housing complexes for elderly residents in the neighborhood, providing safety training and distributing pepper spray and in-language booklets on how to handle racist attacks.
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