Palo Alto community protests against ‘Asian hate’

Protesters+lead+the+rally+with+a+sign+saying+%23StopAsianHate.+Palo+Alto+City+Council+Member+Greg+Tanaka+walks+in+front.+Photo%3A+Jason+Lin

Protesters lead the rally with a sign saying “#StopAsianHate.” Palo Alto City Council Member Greg Tanaka walks in front. Photo: Jason Lin

Jeffrey Tu and Jason Lin

The Palo Alto community is giving attention to Asian-Americans due to hundreds of community members participating in the “8 By 8, Stop Asian Hate” rally organized by Palo Alto City Council members Greg Tanaka and Lydia Kou, Sunday in downtown Palo Alto.

The rally began at 2 p.m. where protesters marched along University Avenue towards City Hall, waving signs and banners reading “Stop Asian Hate.” When rally members got to City Hall at 3 p.m., there were several guest speakers including former Palo Alto Congressman Mike Honda.  Participants were encouraged to get eight other people to register to vote within eight days, hence the name “8 By 8.”

Last year I was biking along Middlefield, stopped at a red light, a minivan pulled up to me and said, ‘Why did you bring the virus in? Go back to China’. I hadn’t felt that kind of racism since I was a kid, as one of the few Asian kids in my class.”

— Greg Tanaka, Palo Alto City Council Member

At the guest speaker event, Tanaka expressed his frustration over racism he had experienced in his own life.

“Last year I was biking along Middlefield, stopped at a red light, a minivan pulled up to me and said, ‘Why did you bring the virus in? Go back to China,'” Tanaka said. “I hadn’t felt that kind of racism since I was a kid, as one of the few Asian kids in my class.”

Palo Alto High School sophomore Johannah Seah, newly elected Associated Student Body president, helped lead protesters, chanting “Eight by eight!” with rally participants responding with “Stop Asian Hate!” She hopes the rally can channel enough support from youth to help keep the movement running.

“I think especially with Asian Americans we feel like we have to be silent or that we’re not going to be heard, but I think when we continue to have these movements and especially having youth involved in these movements is going to be something really powerful,” Seah said. 

Seah said she advocates for more youth support, even though primary and some secondary students can’t vote yet. 

“I believe that our voices are really important when it comes to things like rallies and protests because we get familiar that protesting is a right and something that we can exercise,” Seah said. 

Tanaka echoed this sentiment, saying that his own family had discouraged him from a career in politics. 

Palo Alto City Council Member Greg Tanaka leads the protest with a sign that reads ‘Stop Asian Hate,’ along with local community members. Tanaka, worked with City Council Member Lydia Kou, to organize the protest, which took place Sunday afternoon. During the speaker event that afternoon, Tanaka explained the significance of the number ‘8’. “Eight is a lucky Chinese number, so the idea is to get eight people registered to vote in eight days,” Tanaka said. Photo: Jeffrey Tu

“In 2016, when I ran for city council [and needed] to raise funds, I went to my dad and asked him, ‘Hey, can you donate to my campaign?’” Tanaka said. “He donated to Obama’s campaign, he donated to Hillary’s campaign. I asked him to donate to my campaign. And he refused. I was surprised. He thought Asians shouldn’t be in politics. He thought we should just work hard, keep our heads down and our mouths shut.”

The purpose of the protest was to help increase the political influence of Asians. Thirty percent of Santa Clara County’s population is Asian, but Asians only make up fifteen percent of voters and six percent of elected officials, according to Tanaka. 

Junior Class President Matthew Signorello-Katz, who attended the rally Sunday, said he encourages people who are not members of the Asian American Pacific Islander community to join the movement.

“I think it’s extraordinarily important that people show up and at the minimum, show support with the fact that they are listening to the the AAPI community and want to invoke actual progressive change in society,” Signorello-Katz stated in a message to The Paly Voice. “I think this is one way that people who are not members of the AAPI community can show support and advocacy.”