Queens Community Rallies Against Hate, Gun Violence

The candlelight vigil took place in the wake of mass shootings in California.

Katie Pruden Feb 4

In the bitingly cold night of Jan. 25, a group of around 25 people gathered in Sunnyside, Queens, one of New York’s most diverse neighborhoods, to commemorate those who recently lost their lives to gun violence in California cities Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay. Long-time Sunnyside resident and city council candidate for District 26 in Queens, Haile Kim, organized the candlelight vigil. Kim spoke at the event, alongside others, such as John Cho of the Minkwon Community Center and Pastor Jordan Floro of Mosaic Church. 

The vigil took place just outside the 46th St.–Bliss St. subway stop and was attended by people of varying faiths and backgrounds who gathered in sorrow and anger for the victims. 

“What prevents hate is solidarity,” said Kim. 

On Saturday, Jan. 21, a gunman fatally shot 11 victims and injured several more at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey. Within 48 hours, another mass shooting took place in Half Moon Bay, taking the lives of seven individuals. Many of the victims were AAPI, as were the shooters; there has been no evidence that these crimes were racially motivated. 

These shootings come at a time of heightened violence against Asian Americans, however. According to AAPI Data, since the start of the pandemic about one in six Asian Americans experienced some form of hate incident, rising 339% from 2020 to 2021, reported the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Historically, violence breeds violence.

According to AAPI Data, since the start of the pandemic about one in six Asian Americans experienced some form of hate incident, rising 339% from 2020 to 2021.

“This is not a hate crime. It’s a crime that was violent against Americans,” said Rabbi Mira Rivera. Rivera is a part of Lunar Collective, an organization for Asian-American Jews. As a Filipino American who is Jewish, Rivera had respect for the diverse community of Queens, who she says has stood up for each other, whether that be for the Latin American or LGBTQ+ communities. 

About two years ago, more than 150 people gathered at the same plaza to mourn the eight victims of the Atlanta Spa shootings on March 16, 2021. On Jan 30, locals gathered at Queens Borough Hall to hold a vigil for the death of Tyre Nichols, days after video was released of his death at the hands of five Memphis police officers. 

“This particular community has always galvanized,” said Rivera

“In this neighborhood, we care about each other,” said Kim, who is a housing organizer and founder of the Hate Free Zone initiative to bring more awareness to anti-Asian hate crimes. She expressed how hate crimes and accessibility to housing are interlinked, and how important creating safe spaces is. 

“We were never able to police away hate,” said Kim. 

Sue, a resident of Williamsburg who moved from China just two months ago, said she has seen how people, predominantly Muslims, have been unjustly treated in her hometown. “I’m here for freedom and diversity,” said Sue.

Sue expressed how she was opposed to the way that some media had been covering the Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay shootings. While some outlets have been focused on how both gunmen were Asian, Sue and many others at the vigil expressed how the crimes are an issue, rather, of perpetual gun violence in this country. 

According to the Gun Violence Archive, just in the past month there have been 52 mass shootings in which four or more people were killed or injured by gunfire.

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