On January 28, 2021, in San Francisco, Vicha Ratanapakdee’s wife had made him some morning coffee. He told her he would drink it later, after his walk.
He stepped out and never came home.
Ratanapakdee (84) was a retired immigrant from Thailand, where he had worked as an auditor. He walked his way through the misty morning air. Soon a man ran toward him, crashing intentionally into him. Two days later, in the hospital, Ratanapakdee died of a brain hemorrhage. The incident was captured on a neighbor’s home security camera and watched by many, to their horror, around the world.
On February 13, Karen Inman (39), a transient, approached an Asian man as he dined outdoors with a friend at a Silicon Valley restaurant. Inman spat on him and told him to go back where he came from. She was charged by Santa Clara County prosecutors with two counts of violation of civil rights by force or threat, among other crimes.
On February 22, a male Berkeley resident was arrested after having made criminal threats against the Asian community on social media, which fell under investigation as a hate crime.
On March 9, in Oakland, before 7am, a 75-year-old Chinese man had stepped out for a walk. A robber approached him, resulting in an altercation. The Chinese man was injured to the point of hospitalization. Police apprehended a suspect after having put up a $5,000 reward.
On March 10, at 6:30am, an Asian woman known only as Tiffany stepped off a Caltrain in San Jose and into the tunnels piping to the main station. A man emerged and sexually assaulted her. Following the incident, Tiffany approached a security guard; soon transit police found and arrested her attacker. She walked away with a strained neck and a bruised knee — and quoted the man who assaulted her as having said, “F-u, f-u Asian,” while holding her hair and pinning her to the ground.
A California reporting center called Stop AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islanders) Hate has learned of over 3,000 such incidents since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, 2020.
Also in February, Oakland’s Madison Park saw hundreds gather for a “Love Our People, Heal Our Communities” event to express solidarity with and acceptance of the Asian community in light of the recent antipathy directed toward them.
Many attribute the rash of violence and hateful sentiments to rhetoric from former President Donald Trump whereby he insisted upon referring to COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, as “The China Virus,” effectively blaming Chinese and by extension other Asian people for the outbreak.
In Santa Clara County, where almost 38% of the population is Asian, Asian communities find themselves in a sustained state of vigilance. Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, have introduced a new bill enabling the Department of Justice to better review hate crimes while highlighting those crimes related to the pandemic.
Earlier this month, in a PBS NewsHour discussion, Founder of Rise Amanda Nguyen posited, “In order for us to truly tackle the root of this problem, it must be done in all of the places that hold the keys to telling our stories. The problem is invisibility, therefore the solution has to be informed, thoughtful visibility.”
This means highlighting AAPI communities by teaching their history and sharing their stories by way of news media and Hollywood.
In an interview with The Milpitas Beat, Milpitas City Councilmember Evelyn Chua pointed out that Milpitas, which is a majority-Asian community (67% as of 2020), hasn’t seen a spike in hate crimes during the recent local wave. Said Chua, “We’re fortunate that we live in Milpitas, because it’s a good diverse community. We don’t see much of that. I’m so grateful to have a diverse community, and everybody is accepting, compassionate, and understanding of each of the different cultures in our city. We’re very strong as a community because we don’t see that. We go past that.”
In an interview with The Beat, we asked Milpitas Police Department (MPD) Captain John Torrez if Milpitas has seen any recent hate crimes. Torrez said, “No we have not. We’re fully aware of the uptick in crimes being committed against the AAPI community. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t have any prior incidents. In looking from 2015 to 2020, we don’t have any hate crimes that were reported to the UCR reporting program.”
Regardless, added Torrez, the MPD has taken extra measures in light of the recent rash of violent incidents: “We proactively went out and increased our presence in and around shopping centers that are frequented by the AAPI community or have AAPI businesses or restaurants, as well, so we could have an increased visual presence there — so we could make sure that community members could feel safe going about their daily business. Also, around the Lunar New Year time, we adjusted our staffing…to make sure any events that were taking place, people felt safe attending those. Again, just to have that visual presence there, just to calm any concerns that anyone might have.”
MPD’s Police Community Relations Unit has been proactive when it comes to connecting and reaching out to faith-based organizations throughout Milpitas. Lately, they’ve been focused on doing outreach to AAPI faith-based organizations to discuss the recent events with them, and also check in to see if they can be of support.
“Our main message to the AAPI community is that we take these hate crime incidents that are occurring nationwide and in the Bay Area seriously. We have no tolerance for hate crimes that are committed in the City of Milpitas, and we will investigate those fully if they’re reported to us. And we encourage our community members to report any incidents so we can investigate them.”
In the meantime, tomorrow, March 13, from 11am to 12pm, a Stop AAPI Hate Rally will be held at the San Jose City Hall Rotunda (200 East Santa Clara Street). Attendees can RSVP here.
And in Milpitas, on March 28, a Break The Silence, End Asian Violence! march will go from 1-3pm, starting at Lee’s Sandwiches (279 West Calaveras Boulevard) and going to Milpitas City Hall.