Reverend Al Sharpton assembled the frontrunners in the mayoral race and community leaders to stand in solidarity following Tuesday’s massacre in Georgia.
Sharpton is no stranger to speaking out against racist acts and rhetoric. The religious and civil rights figure has spent decades embroiled in a war against racism and white supremacy. In the wake of the the March 16 Atlanta shootings that left eight people, including six Asian women, dead, Sharpton is lending his voice in the fight against anti-Asian hate crimes.
On the morning of March 18, Sharpton called for a rally inside the “House of Justice” at the National Action Network (NAN) headquarters located at 106 West 145th Street to denounce the xenophobic attacks that are plaguing New York City and the country as a whole.
Sharpton brought attention to these senseless acts of violence against Asian Americans, which has continued to grow exponentially.
“We must stand together against hate crimes against Asian Americans. The attacks have only heightened, and the brutal and vicious killings yesterday in Atlanta has only made this even more necessary for us to take a strong and unequivocal united stand against hate crimes against Asians,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton implored the African American community to join in the fight against hate adding, “We want to do it very openly and unequivocally in the African American community because we know hate so well.”
In an effort to show unity, Sharpton gathered many of the current mayoral candidates together where they put their political differences aside and stood in defiance of the rapid uptick in biased violence aimed at Asian-Americans.
Those in attendance included Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Andrew Yang, Maya Wiley, Shaun Donovan, and Raymond McGuire.
“No one should be the mayor of any city if they are not going to vocally and very aggressively deal with the crime of hate and many if not all have agreed to come and make a brief statement this morning,” Sharpton said.
Jo-Ann Yoo, the executive director of the Asian American Federation, read out the names of four of the victims — the others have not been released — stating that she can see herself in the six women killed, she can see her mother, aunts, and cousins.
“Those are the victims. Immigrant women who had to go to work through a global pandemic,” Yoo said.
The fear felt amongst the Asian American community has now reached a point where many are afraid to leave their homes. Sharpton, who has not been afraid to speak out against the Trump administration, criticized the former president for fanning the flames of phobia that has led to this point.
On this, Yoo wholeheartedly agreed, declaring it is time to come together.
“We in the Asian American community are angry, frustrated, and heartbroken that the senseless violence that took the lives of eight people in Georgia, and the fear that is keeping our own Asian American community from going to work, going grocery shopping, sending our kids to school and most importantly getting vaccinated. During this height of violence, we must come together as our city, state and country and fight the root of violence all around us. We must reject racism and its many iterations that fuel paranoia and distrust within and between our communities,” Yoo said.
Despite every mayoral candidate taking to the podium throughout the morning and condemning the ruthless acts of violence that have many New Yorkers fearing for their lives, others say it is not good enough to merely speak out.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams joined the conference affirming that action must be taken. To uproot white supremacy, he says easy access to guns must be prevented, which he underscored has been treated as simply policy differences and not a detrimental problem to the welfare of Americans as a whole.
“Not only do we need accountability, but we need the resources to fight this. It is not enough to stand up and say it’s bad, we have to do something about it because people are dying. People who are surviving are scarred physically, spiritually, and mentally,” Williams said.
Williams is pushing for more education access since he believes this is the way to get the city out of stereotypical thinking that has been perpetuating racism. In addition, Sharpton plans to continue pushing for advocacy and unity on this issue. He will be meeting with Congresswoman Grace Ming to discuss strategies to further help and raise awareness.
Later that afternoon, Adams hosted his own conference on 8th Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn to take his own actions in the opposition to hate.
Adams joined with local Asian business owners under the pouring rain to announce the expansion of an existing program his office launched two year prior. Dubbed Operation Safe Shopper, this program deploys additional security cameras outside businesses with the hope that it will help the NYPD during crime investigations.
The Borough President declared a further $10,000 will be allocated to fund and grow this program, which he believes will ease fears and growing tensions.
“We stand united against hate crimes in our city and country,” Adams began. “This is unacceptable, and we will not stand by and pretend as though this is not happening every day.”
Flanked by about ten Asian community members and business owners, Adams says that if those in the community remain silent, the issue will only grow. Therefore, the Borough President says the expansion of this program will not only aid in apprehending those who commit these actions, but also help deter them as well.
“We are committing $10,000 to expand this initiative, it will spearhead and deploy security cameras outside the selected local businesses that will help the police department identify anyone who is targeting this community,” Adams said. “We will find you, we will record you, we will arrest you, we will prosecute you.”