Hundreds come together to show unity with the Asian community

Hundreds come together to show unity with the Asian community

On a spring-like Saturday afternoon, local residents from all walks of life took time out of their day to rally in support of the Asian community.

The south side of the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge on Saturday, March 27, was filled with hundreds decrying recent hate crimes against Asians in the country. Many held signs featuring messages such as “Stop Hate Spread Love,” “End Racist Violence,” “Make Racism Wrong Again,” “Hate Is A Virus, Love Is The Vaccine” and more.

The rally was organized by Suffolk County Human Services. The event featured speeches from representatives of civil rights organizations and elected officials, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) and Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini (D).

Bellone said he was glad it was a sunny and warm day, but it would be a beautiful one even if it was raining.

“It’s a beautiful day because we are all gathered together as one, as Americans from all backgrounds, to stand up and speak together in one voice to say that hatred and intolerance is unacceptable,” the county executive said. “We will not accept it here in Suffolk County. We will not accept it anywhere in this country.”

Bellone said anyone who attempts a hate crime in the county would be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“We are gathered here today, one another in solidarity, to fight against these vicious brutal acts of violence that we have seen many of our brothers and sisters — our fellow Americans in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community — have been subjected to, verbal assault and physical violence,” he said. “And we are here to say today that this is unacceptable. We will never tolerate acts of hate like this here in Suffolk County.”

Zeldin, who has been criticized for not supporting in the House a resolution condemning anti-Asian hate related to the COVID-19 pandemic, received criticism at the rally, including from state Sen. John Liu (D-Flushing). The state senator said he was happy to see U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) there who voted in favor of the legislation.

“Not every Congress member you will hear from today, voted for it,” he said. “People want to be held accountable. I’m in office, I expect you to hold me accountable. I may not be his constituent, but I’m going to hold Congressman Zeldin accountable for voting ‘no.’”

“We need everybody who says they support us to actually support us,” Liu said.

When Zeldin spoke at the podium his wife, Diana, who is Asian American, stood by his side. Some of the people in attendance at first jeered when he began to talk.

Zeldin said the rally wasn’t a partisan political one.

“We all have to stand together in these moments to come together and rally against the violence when you are targeting someone because of their religion or their color of their skin, or where they come from,” he said. “Every American, and especially as we are reminded in this crowd of people who love our community and our country, who come here for the American Dream to pursue hope and opportunity. All of you are here not just for this flag but for community, and for each other to make a difference.”

Also, speaking at the event was Shaorui Li, president of the Asian American Association of Greater Stony Brook. The East Setauket resident was born in China and immigrated here more than 20 years ago.

During her speech, she said since last year there has been a 150% increase of crimes against Asian Americans.

“Why are Asians being treated this way?” Li asked the crowd.

In a phone interview the day after she said, “I wanted them to think, because we’ve been too quiet.”

Li said she was touched to see people from all ethnic backgrounds at the event as well as various elected officials from the area.

“I said to everyone, not only Asians, but African Americans and Latino Americans, I wanted to ask them to be with us together because in the past there have been different opinions. But this definitely shows how being minorities being together, we can get the support we need,” she said.