Mar. 21—CONCORD — A diverse crowd attended a #StopAsianHate rally outside the State House to demand justice for the victims of recent shootings at massage businesses and to denounce racism, xenophobia and misogyny.
A few hundred people of all ages and varied racial and ethnic backgrounds gathered at the NH Solidarity Rally rally with members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in Concord, listening to speakers and waving signs.
The event was organized by the NH Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus of the NH Democratic Party in conjunction with the Kent Street Coalition.
Organizers said 3,800 hate incidents against Asian Americans were reported in the United States in 2020 — an increase of 1,900%.
Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old White man, is accused of killing four people inside two Atlanta spas. and four others at a massage business about 30 miles away in suburban Cherokee County. Six of the eight people killed Tuesday were women of Asian descent. Another person was shot, but survived.
During a press briefing on the shootings last week, Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office said Long had "a really bad day" and was seeking to "eliminate" a sexual "temptation."
Nicholas Ho and Wendy Cote, both of Manchester, attended Sunday's rally holding signs saying, "Stop Asian Hate" and "It Wasn't A Bad Day, It Was A Hate Crime." Both said they were moved to drive from the Queen City to show their support for the AAPI community.
"You see what's going on in the world, and I wanted to do something," said Ho
Sunday's rally began with organizers reading the names of the victims: Hyun Jung Grant; Xiaojie Tan; Yong Ae Yue; Daoyou Feng; Soon Chung Park; and Suncha Kim.
"Enough is enough," said Sumathi Madhure, co-chair of the NH AAPI Democratic Caucus. "Don't just brush it away. We're human, too. We deserve to be safe."
Cora Quisumbing-King, co-chair of the NH AAPI Democratic Caucus, said members of the AAPI community are "unique."
"We are different, and we are the same. And so are you, our allies," said Quisumbing-King. "We come here to gather in grief and protest and solidarity. We are sad, frustrated, angry. Righteously angry. Let us see each other. Listen. Act together."
Some rally speakers connected the rise in violence toward Asian Americans to anti-Asian rhetoric involving the coronavirus pandemic.
"We had a president who called this virus 'China Virus' — 'Kung Flu.' Don't tell me there isn't a connection," said Asma Elhuni, Movement and Politics Director at Rights and Democracy NH.
"People are taught to be racist. Racism is created to divide us so we're not focusing on what we need to be focusing on. We need to pay attention to the way this country is handling the pandemic, but we're hating each other."
State Rep. Latha Mangipudi, D-Nashua, told the crowd she is serving her fifth term in the State House and will continue fighting for justice.
"I am proud to be a woman," said Mangipudi. "I am proud to be a brown woman. I'm proud to be a first-generation immigrant. I'm proud to stand not just representing, brown, black, blue, polka-dot, I'm proud to represent my community. We are not going to quit. Nobody is going to silence us."
Concord Mayor Jim Bouley said the first step to ending racism is acknowledging it exists.
"I'm asking you to speak up, take responsibility,and let's change the world," said Bouley. "We all need to stand up, and to speak out, when we see that something's wrong. We need to celebrate diversity."
Rally organizers encouraged attendees and lawmakers to reject HB 266, an anti-sanctuary city bill, and HB 544, which categorize topics like homophobia, racism and sexism as "divisive concepts" and would limit public schools, organizations or state contractors from discussing these topics and ban teaching that the state of New Hampshire or the U.S. is racist or sexist.