LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — Dozens of people gathered in Lancaster’s Penn Square Saturday night for a vigil and rally in celebration of Asian life. The county may have a small Asian population, but organizers say it’s important to stand up against hatred.
Reports of hate crimes against the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community have been on the rise over the last year. The rally in Lancaster was to show that hate has no place in the Midstate.
“As an Asian American now in this time, we need to come together and denounce the hate,” one speaker said.
Asian Americans only make up about 2% of Lancaster County’s population but they don’t want to remain silent.
“I am floored with the amount of people here today and I love you all,” said organizer Julia Cao.
Cao started thinking about holding a rally after the shooting of Asian Americans in Atlanta.
“Considering everything that’s been going on nationally, it’s definitely been a ripple effect in the community and knowing how small of a community we are, we wanted to make sure that it was something to be seen and heard,” Cao said.
“My fiance is from China. She was adopted at a very early age so I came here in full support of her and the whole movement that is occurring these days,” said Kial Maynard.
According to the organization Stop AAPI Hate, there have been 6,603 incident reports submitted from March 2020 to March 2021. Nearly half of those were reported two months ago, which include incidents that took place in 2020 and 2021.
“I urge you not to just support but to educate yourselves,” said Sophie Xiong.
There haven’t been any large-scale incidents in Lancaster, as we’ve seen in some cities like New York and San Francisco, but many instances of harassment and discrimination go unreported.
“I think it’s very important for us to highlight that this kind of hate isn’t new. It has been simmering for decades,” Xiong said.
For the small but vibrant Asian American community in Lancaster, the diverse support means a lot.
“In the end, it is just being here and being present and saying that we are a community that wants to be heard and given the opportunity to participate,” Cao said.
For those who were unable to or uncomfortable with attending, organizers gave out boxes ahead of time with candles, flyers and mementos from the event.