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Large Crowd Rallies In Solidarity With Asian Community After Atlanta Killings

Bill O'Driscoll
90.5 WESA
Crowds listen to organizer Jake during a "Stop Asian Hate" rally in Oakland on Saturday, March 20.

A large crowd gathered in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood Saturday afternoon for a “Stop Asian Hate” rally. The local demonstration took place days after a white gunman went on a shooting rampage in Atlanta, killing eight people, including six women of Asian descent.

Hundreds of demonstrators filled the intersection of Forbes and Oakland Avenues, spilling into the adjacent roadways. The crowd appeared ethnically diverse and skewed young.


An organizer with the collective Thrash The State, who would give his name only as Jake B., welcomed the crowd. He condemned a long history of legal discrimination against Asians in the U.S., noting the Page Act of 1875 which restricted immigration of women from China, and the internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II.


Actress Sandra Oh also spoke during the rally. The Golden Globe-winning star of “Grey’s Anatomy” was in town for a film shoot and led the crowd in a chant of “I’m proud to be Asian.” (Jake B., who said he is a film worker, thanked Oh for retweeting his announcement of the rally.)


Several young people spoke as well, including a high school student who said it was the first protest she’d ever attended. She said she and her classmates have been subject to harassment and abuse because of their Asian ancestry, and that she “had to learn to love my eyes and love my skin.” Another young person reported being called “Mulan” for much of high school. An EMT said she hears racist comments from people whose lives she is trying to save.


Another speaker, Lena Chen, identified herself as a Chinese American immigrant sex worker. She said the shootings in Atlanta must be seen as a crime against sex workers as well as a racist crime. While police have not indicated that the victims were sex workers, the suspect blamed “sex addiction” and referred to the women working at the massage businesses he targeted as “temptations.”


Police presence was light, though in the protest’s third hour, officers on motorcycles did lead the way up Forbes Avenue as the crowd began to march and chant, “Stand and fight they can’t divide us, Asian hate is the virus.”

The demonstration continued through the Carnegie Mellon University campus and on to Schenley Park, where Jake told the marchers that “it’s unfortunate it took a massacre” to get people to protest violence against Asians. He asked for a moment of silence for the eight victims of Tuesday’s attacks.

This story was updated at 6:39 p.m. to include more information.


Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: