March 19, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
More than 150 people gathered for a candlelight vigil in Sunnyside Thursday to mourn the Asian Americans killed in bias attacks over the past year — including the victims of the Atlanta-area shooting Tuesday night.
The event took place at Bliss Plaza, located at 46th Street and Queens Boulevard, and was hosted by Steven Raga and Julie Won, two Asian American council candidates who are running to represent the 26th District. The pair were joined by at least three other candidates who are vying for the seat.
Raga and Won called on the community to denounce the recent spike in hate crimes. They said that the bigotry had to stop.
“This is an epidemic, a societal disease of hate…against the Asian American community,” Raga, a Filipino-American, said. “We are not the virus.”
The vigil began at around 6:45 p.m. and lasted around 80 minutes.
Six large candles– representing the Asian Americans who were gunned down Tuesday–were placed on the ground in front of a makeshift speaking area along with three bouquets of flowers.
Many people carried their own candles to remember the lives of the slain victims, while families – accompanied by young children – also turned out to show a united front against racism.
One young child could be seen holding a sign that read #StopAsianHate while another woman carried a sign with the words “Tama Na,” which means “enough is enough.”
Won, a Korean-American, began the event by reading out the names of the victims in Tuesday’s horrific shooting.
“The lives of our Asian brothers and sisters have value,” she said.
She said that Asian American women are being objectified through hyper-sexualization which can lead to violence and death. The victims in Tuesday’s shootings had worked in a massage parlor and the suspect told the police that he carried out the killings to quell his sexual addiction.
Raga emphasized the fact that there have been nearly 3,800 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders over the past year, citing research from Stop AAPI Hate. He said that many more go unreported.
Other speakers at the event included Donal Gogdel, a youth director at Hope Justice Astoria as well as District Council 26 candidates Brent O’Leary, Badrun Khan and Heajin Hailie Kim.
Audrey Lee, a local singer and musician, sang a song in honor of the victims, as did Jay Miners.