Nine-year-old Dylan Fan grabbed a megaphone and stood on a bench Saturday afternoon at the Logan Square monument in front of hundreds of people carrying signs saying, “No more silence for Asian violence” and “Stop Asian hate.”
Dylan was scared about Tuesday night’s Atlanta-area shootings that left eight people killed, six of them Asian women. But the throng of faces, some that looked like his and others that did not, gave reassuring smiles as his small chest puffed out and he began speaking.
“Every time I hear the news, I get angry because people are like, I always hear that some Asian is getting killed,” Dylan, from Hyde Park, said. “And I don’t want that. That’s why I’ve come here today. I was not born to be killed.”
He was among several speakers and at least 300 people who stood in front of the monument before marching around the neighborhood in a “Stop Asian Hate” rally organized by Jennifer Chan, Min Wang and Xiran Li. The protest comes the weekend after the mass shootings across three spas in Georgia plunged the Asian American community in mourning amid an already trying time of escalating violence reported against them across the U.S.
A 21-year-old white man has been charged in the murders, which leaders in the Asian American community and beyond consider to be racially motivated given the majority of victims were Asian. Georgia police officials said they are still investigating the motive.
Wang noted anti-Asian racism has often been ignored in the U.S., but she hopes that with her rally and nationwide conversations following the violence, those issues will have newfound visibility.
“No matter which country you are born for, what languages you are speaking ... we all came here for the freedom of this land, and for the love of our own people,” Wang said. “I still have hope that we can change this.”
Speakers called for people in attendance to also support others of color who they said paved the way for them to speak out against racial injustices in the U.S. Li said she attended Black Lives Matter protests last year following the death of George Floyd and hopes to continue seeing the Asian and Black communities fight against racism together.
“I’m a refugee from Vietnam,” Tuan Huynh, co-owner of the coffee startup Fat Miilk, said. “We escaped violence to come here into a different jungle, into a street jungle, and we’ve grown up in here. We have to navigate this space, but we cannot forget about the struggles that’s already been here.”
Wenxiu Zhao, a 54-year-old woman from Vernon Hills, said in an interview she attended because she is a lifelong protester for what she believes is right. She was there during the 1989 Tiananmen Square student uprisings in Beijing, and she was in Chicago on Saturday because she’s afraid for herself and her daughter, a college student. This past Sunday, she said her daughter was walking down a sidewalk when a car sped past her and someone yelled, “You Communist Party member!”
“Personally I experienced many anti-Asian (racism) in different forms too,” Zhao said. “I don’t always feel safe. I don’t always feel appreciated as an Asian. Most of the time I feel like an outsider.”
After the speeches, a march looped through North Milwaukee Avenue, North Sacramento Avenue, West Palmer Square and North Kedzie Avenue before gathering back at the monument. Chicago police bike units and a squad car stayed ahead on the street. Passing drivers stopped to honk in support and hold up their fists through rolled-down windows.
Chan, one of the organizers, led the march in chants: “When Asian lives are under attack, you got our back?”
“We got your back,” the crowd responded.