Westporters to rally against hate toward Asians and Pacific Islanders

Between 1,500 and 2,000 people assembled on Jesup Green for the CT on the MOVE march from Jesup Green to Veterans Green, on Sunday, Mar. 26, 2017, in Westport, Conn. Folks will be on the green again this weekend rallying against hate toward the Asian community.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 people assembled on Jesup Green for the CT on the MOVE march from Jesup Green to Veterans Green, on Sunday, Mar. 26, 2017, in Westport, Conn. Folks will be on the green again this weekend rallying against hate toward the Asian community.

Jarret Liotta / For Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — Residents and leaders are rallying to speak out against violence toward the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities following the shooting at spas in Atlanta, which killed eight people, most of whom were women of Asian descent.

The peaceful gathering will take place Saturday at 10 a.m. on Jesup Green. Anyone who attends is asked to maintain social distancing and wear a mask.

Both First Selectman Jim Marpe and Schools Superintendent Thomas Scarice issued statements condemning the shootings, and the Board of Selectmen approved a resolution Wednesday morning condemning the hate and violence against Asian-Pacific Americans.

“I am heartbroken by the recent surge in the despicable acts that are targeting members of the Asian American and Pacific Island community,” Marpe said. “An attack on any is an attack on all that we hold dear as a community that embraces inclusiveness in how we govern, and in how we interact with our neighbors. I wholeheartedly condemn such violence.”

He said it is important to celebrate diversity in the community and ensure everyone feels safe and welcome in Westport.

About 6 percent of the town’s population identifies as Asian, according to U.S. Census data.

“Together, we must support and encourage programs and policies that include frank discussions on race and inclusivity,” he said. “By doing so, we will come to a better understanding and open acceptance of our unique personal qualities. We accept and honor every aspect of the human experience that makes us members of a civil society.”

Incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes has reportedly increased this past year, with the Center for Study of Hate and Extremism reporting a surge of nearly 150 percent in 16 major cities they studied.

There have been about 3,800 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents in the U.S. since March 2020, according to Stop AAPI Hate, an initiative created last year to track and respond to incidents of hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. It was started by the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University in response to to the “alarming escalation in xenophobia and bigotry resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the coalition.

Scarice said Westport Public Schools denounce “all forms of violence, racism, and xenophobia,” adding the district is committed to creating an inclusive environment for all students and staff.

“On behalf of the Board of Education, and the faculty and staff, I want to affirm that as we stand beside all members of our community, that we particularly show support for our brothers and sisters in the Asian American community, which has experienced a tragic increase in acts of violence and hatred,” he said.

The district is currently working on an equity study that will examine its practices. It is also working with community groups, school-based equity teams and curriculum coordinators to incorporate these topics into classroom discussions, he said.

“The unspeakable act of violence in Atlanta last week was yet another reminder of the chasm between our world today, and the ideal of the world we envision,” Scarice said. “The violent loss of life, of any life, is destructive to what we aspire to be as a nation, and to what we aim to build as neighbors.”

kkoerting@newstimes.com