Local officials and community leaders led by Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan (I-Woodbury) attended a “Stand Up to Hate” rally with hundreds of people to condemn increases in bias incidents and violence against Asian-Americans in the age of COVID-19 last weekend.
Lafazan’s office coordinated the event, held on the front steps of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building on Sunday, with Gordon Zhang, president of the Long Island Chinese American Association, and Farrah Mozawalla, executive director of Nassau County’s Office of Asian American Affairs.
“It’s on all of us to speak out in a loud, unified, and categorical voice to demand an end to this violence,” Lafazan said during the rally. “We know that we cannot drive out hatred with more hate. As Dr. King taught us many years ago, only love can do that. Which is why when you look at this crowd – and you see Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Jews standing together – when you see people of all different races and backgrounds standing together, when you see people of all different ages standing together, there can be no mistaking that love and unity is the answer.”
“We stand with our brothers and sisters. As Asian-Americans, we are all in this together,” Mozawalla said. “No one should be made to feel unsafe, uncomfortable or feel like they do not belong. It is important for us to reiterate that Nassau County is diverse and inclusive.”
“America is a great country built by immigrants. The anti-Asian violence is not just an attack on one group, it is an attack on our nation’s fundamental values of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Zhang said. “We must all condemn the rising of anti-Asian hate crimes in both New York and across the country.”
The rally comes months after the Great Neck school district was the subject of a letter from nearly 40 parents reporting that younger students of Asian descent had been asked if they ate bats and were called “COVID-19 spreaders” by other students. District Superintendent Teresa Prendergast said at the time that no anti-Asian incidents had occurred on school grounds.
In addition, the rally was attended by elected leaders, including Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), multiple members of the New York Senate and Assembly, North Hempstead Town Clerk Wayne Wink and Nassau County Legislator Ellen W. Birnbaum (D-Great Neck).
Community leaders like Tracey Edwards, Long Island regional director of the NAACP; Dr. Isma Chaudhry, spokesperson and past president of the Islamic Center of Long Island; Eric Post, Long Island regional director of the American Jewish Committee; Andrea Bolender, chair of the board of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County; and Dr. Asiah Mason, CEO of the Mill Neck Family of Organizations, which provided American Sign Language interpreters for the event; also spoke.
“Nassau County is standing together against the rising tide of Anti-Asian hate,” Curran said. “Although there have been no reported hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans in Nassau, the attacks we’re seeing in our state are alarming and unacceptable. Now and always there is no home for hate in Nassau.”
“The steady stream of hateful rhetoric linking Asian-Americans with COVID-19 and the ensuing number of anti-Asian hate crimes is abhorrent,” Suozzi said. “It is incumbent upon all of us to do everything in our power to call out and reject xenophobia and racism each and every time it rears its ugly head. We must always ensure that hate will never win.”
“The recent wave of hate crimes across the country, particularly against the Asian-American community, must stop,” DiNapoli said. “We must speak out against any form of hate and discrimination directed toward our fellow Americans and New Yorkers. Our neighbors must know we have their backs, and we won’t tolerate any violence or threats of violence or intimidation against anyone.”
“At a time when Asian-Americans across our nation are living with heightened fears about targeted, violent bigotry against their community, we have a responsibility to exclaim, in one voice, that we will stand up to hateful words and actions wherever they may occur,” Birnbaum said. “I was especially heartened to see such overwhelming support for a rally dedicated to conquering hatred in our county and our region.”
“To our Asian-American brothers and sisters – we see you, we love you, and we have your backs. And no matter how long it takes, we will stamp out hate on Long Island,” Lafazan said.